2013 Army Football Stat Tracker: Turnovers

The good news for Army in 2013 was that it didn't usually commit more turnovers than its FBS opponents. The bad news is that it didn't matter as much as it could have... or needed to. A complicated story is the focus of this week's examination of Rich Ellerson's final season in West Point.


Last week, we talked about how the 2013 Army football team went 1-4 in FBS games in which it committed fewer penalties than its opponent. The Black Knights didn't do well enough in games when they enjoyed a favorable differential. This week's statistical topic unearths a slightly different reality about West Point football, one that new coach Jeff Monken will surely want to address heading into week one of the 2014 campaign.

In its 11 FBS games last season, Army committed fewer turnovers than its opponent on five occasions. The Black Knights went 2-3 in those five games. That's not great, but the team's only FBS wins came in contests with a positive turnover differential. Army did make some use of takeaways, then. What's different from last week's analysis of penalties, though? Army played three FBS games in which its turnover differential was zero; as a point of comparison, the Black Knights played only one game in 2013 in which their penalty differential was zero.

Here's the story inside the story for Army in 2013, through the prism of turnovers: If a team coughs up no turnovers in a game, or if it at least avoids a negative differential, one would like to think that if it plays three games, it can win at least one of them. More to the point, any coaching staff would hope that if it doesn't lose the turnover battle, the quality of its performance on offense can – at least on one afternoon – reach a high level and attain a victory. This hope is especially realistic in a game in which the "zero turnover differential" was the product of a turnover-free game on both sides. If your own offense doesn't commit a turnover, you'd like to believe that you should win.

Let's change the script a little bit: What if a "zero turnover differential" game was the product of four turnovers, two by each side? Such a game is a little more dependent on the circumstances surrounding those four turnovers, but just the same, a coaching staff would hope that its offense can make use of the two takeaways gained by the defense, and that the defense could minimize the effects of the two giveaways donated by the offense. Army's 0-3 record in "zero turnover differential" games shows, in a different way, how ineffective this team was at pouncing on turnovers. All in all, Army played eight FBS games last season in which it did not commit more turnovers than the opposition (five with a positive differential, three with a zero differential). Going 2-6 in those eight games – not necessarily the 2-3 mark in the five positive differential games – is where Army truly lacked a winning edge.

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