In 11 games last season, the Johns Hopkins football team had eight interceptions. In five games this fall, the defense already has exceeded that number.
The No. 9 Blue Jays' 10 interceptions are tied for second with Moravian in the Centennial Conference and tied for 10th overall in Division III. Coach Jim Margraff said he couldn't explain the team's increase in interceptions.
"We're really pleased with being able to create more turnovers," he said Wednesday. "I really don't know where that stems from. Our guys do a really good job of creating pressure, and it's not like they've been poorly thrown footballs. Our guys have really made some nice plays on some different pass routes."
Sophomore defensive back Jack Toner leads Johns Hopkins (5-0, 4-0) with three interceptions, but Margraff spread the credit around.
"I think it's a team effort," he said. "That's what's important. It's not just one cornerback or one safety. It's the pass rush, it's the scheme, it's guys making plays. How many times have you seen guys drop interceptions? We have dropped a couple this year, but overall, our guys have been making some terrific plays, and they've been in good position to do it."
Conversely, the Blue Jays have committed 10 turnovers, tied with Juniata for second most in the conference. Margraff compared the giveaways to unforced errors in tennis.
"That's been a concern, and it's very annoying because a lot of those have been gifts," he said. "There's been very few times when a turnover was warranted or earned. When we're turning the ball over, we're giving it away. So it's something we've got to get better at. We've worked on it, we've addressed it, and I think we're doing a better job right now."
After a combined seven turnovers in wins against Susquehanna and Moravian, Johns Hopkins has lost the ball just three times in victories over Muhlenberg and Juniata. Margraff credited the reversal to a renewed emphasis on protecting the ball.
"It's always a focus, but I think our guys are taking greater pride in it," he said. "They've been reminded every day by their coaches that it's not going to be tolerated and that it will cost you playing time. There's no greater motivator than playing time. If you put the ball on the ground, you're going to be standing next to me for a bit, and they understand that."