There comes a time in games when the Johns Hopkins defense begins to get antsy about creating turnovers that lead to scoring opportunities.
“We just like to force turnovers and create opportunities for our offense,” junior defensive back Dan Johnson said after Saturday’s 45-24 victory over Centennial Conference foe Franklin & Marshall. “We don’t like to keep teams in the game, and when they’re in the game, it kind of [ticks] us off. So we get after it, and that ball is ours. Whenever we have the opportunity to, we try to take it away.”
That formula has worked well for the No. 8 Blue Jays (9-0 overall, 8-0 in the league), who are tied for sixth in Division III in interceptions (18) and tied for 14th in total takeaways (26). The defense has been especially productive in its past four contests, intercepting 10 passes and pouncing on four fumbles.
“We’re aggressive,” coach Jim Margraff said. “We’re aggressive in the pass rush, and we’re aggressive to the ball defensively. We take some chances, but we’re not reckless. We take some smart chances.”
The unit forced three turnovers against the Diplomats (6-3, 5-3), including a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown by Johnson that gave Johns Hopkins a 42-17 advantage late in the third quarter.
Johnson said the defense’s penchant for goading opponents into turning over the ball has been aided by the offense’s ability to build a significant lead that entices teams into throwing the ball.
“When our offense puts up points, we put them in situations where they have to throw the ball and make something happen,” he said. “… Once our offense goes up and gets into that situation, it gives us an opportunity to make some plays on defense and make some turnovers.”
Margraff wasn’t prepared to compare the current defense to previous versions, but he noted that there’s a unique chemistry among the players on that side of the ball.
“Our defense has been playing really well,” he said. “Each of the levels supports each other. Our defensive line is small, but very fast. Our linebackers are active, and our secondary has played well. So overall, it’s just been a good season up to this point.”