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Defense for Johns Hopkins football continues torrid run of takeaways

The Johns Hopkins football team forced five turnovers in Saturday's 52-20 thumping of visiting Western New England in a first-round Division III tournament game, and Marcus Spearman led the effort with an interception and fumble recovery.

But the junior cornerback was matter-of-fact about his performance.

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"It was just all-around great effort by the defense, in general," Spearman said. "We were always taught to run to the football, and our pursuit was great today. Put us in great positions. Our players just made plays."

In the No. 8 Blue Jays' past six games, the defense has 15 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries. In Saturday's victory at Homewood Field, the unit finished with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, four of which the offense converted into touchdowns.

Golden Bears coach Keith Emery, a former Johns Hopkins defensive coordinator, said the Blue Jays' ability to force turnovers tired his defense.

"We weren't able to get our defense breaks," he said. "We weren't able to catch our breath and figure out what it is that we could do to execute something on defense and get them stopped. We're turning around right back, and they've got the ball again. Obviously, giving them some short fields early on, that didn't help. So it was quite impactful in them getting that early lead."

In the first half, as it took a 38-0 lead, Johns Hopkins forced Western New England to punt on five of eight possessions, two of which were three-and-outs. Coach Jim Margraff pointed to those stops as crucial in Saturday's win.

"We moved the ball early and we scored early, and then getting the ball back is important," he said. "But maybe the most important thing is starting the game with three-and-outs. We got an early punt and got a score, and from there, you're playing with a lead, and we've been pretty good at that during the year."

The Blue Jays will try to be as productive against No. 11 Wesley in Saturday's second-round game. The Wolverines (10-1) rank among the bottom third in the country in giveaways, with 21 this season.

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