Richmond secured its berth in the Football Championship Subdivision postseason with a 34-20 victory over No. 23 William and Mary on Saturday -- a game in which the No. 18 Spiders won the turnover margin, 3-0.
It’s one of the few times this season that Richmond has committed fewer turnovers than its opponent in a game. The Spiders have lost the turnover battle nine times this fall and have given up the ball 33 times, which is tied for second-most in the country.
Morgan State (7-5), Richmond’s opponent in Saturday’s FCS first-round playoff game, has 11 of its 20 takeaways in its last four games, and senior inside linebacker Cody Acker hopes the defense can continue that trend against the Spiders (8-4).
“In the last couple of weeks, that was something we tried to get better at,” he said. “Through the first eight games of the season, we didn’t have a lot of turnovers. We played solid defense, but we didn’t have a lot of turnovers.
"I feel like in the last couple of weeks, we’ve been trying to change that and force the turnovers and help our offense get extra possession. So with them turning the ball over a lot, that’s something we’re definitely going to get after.”
Richmond coach Danny Rocco, who has watched his team commit 16 giveaways in its last five games, is understandably concerned about the lack of ball security.
“We certainly addressed it,” Rocco said. “It hasn’t been the make-up of my team at all. We protected the ball very well when I was at Liberty, and in my first season here, we actually led the nation in turnover ratio [at plus-22]. So it’s kind of an anomaly that we find ourselves in this position here.”
Bears coach Lee Hull fully comprehends the value of turnovers. But he also said the key for any defense is prioritizing its assignments.
“If you can get turnovers, that’s going to help your game,” he said. “We’ve always stressed turnovers. We do it every day in practice. So it’s nothing more than what we usually stress.
"We’ll point that out, that they have turned the ball over 33 times, but we’re not going to do anything different because when you start worrying about strips and making them fumble, then you miss tackles. So we just have to tackle and wrap up and see what happens.”