Turning Them Over

Will the turnover margin be the difference in Saturday's game between Florida State and NC State?

Will the turnover margin be the difference in Saturday's game between Florida State and NC State?

Obviously other factors will also determine the outcome of a matchup where the Seminoles are considered double-digit favorites, but the two teams are headed in different directions in terms of turnover margin.

Florida State ranks No. 115 (-1.14) nationally in turnover margin, a number they would love to improve. The Seminoles have 14 turnovers, but an even bigger issue is they have forced only six turnovers, and just two interceptions, in seven games.

"They're knocking the balls away," said head coach Jimbo Fisher. "Haven't got a lot of turnovers, we've only created six all year. When you talk about sacks you think turnovers would come with that.

"Hopefully they start to come. That's the one issue that we've played solid defense but haven't created the turnovers."

On the other hand, NC State's made a living out of turning over the competition. The Wolfpack is currently 7th nationally in turnover margin (+1.29). They've had 13 turnovers of their own, but the defense has forced 22, which is the fifth-best total in the country. A majority of those have been interceptions, with cornerback David Amerson's eight leading the way.

"David has got eight and Brandan [Bishop] has four," said defensive coordinator Mike Archer. "College football has changed. People are throwing the ball 45-50 times a game.

"You hope that you are going to get your share of them, whether they are tipped balls... being in the right place at the right time helps."

NC State's defensive scheme contributes to their ability to force turnovers. A predominantly zone defense, the Wolfpack's defensive backs and linebackers are comfortable in their zones and do a great job of anticipating passes and tipped balls.

"When you're playing zone as much as we do you should create more turnovers than a team that plays a lot of man," said Archer. "When you play man you have your back turned to the ball a lot and you're not going to see things.

"When you play zone you're going to get tipped balls, balls batted in the air, and you hope for a higher ratio of turnovers. Having [coached] in the NFL where you play a lot of man, sometimes it doesn't work that way. you'll have a tipped ball but no one is there because their back is turned."

But, that doesn't mean the Wolfpack doesn't practice at it. Creating turnovers is a big emphasis in practice, and it starts every Sunday, as soon as the previous game is over.

"We do it every Sunday," Archer stated. "We have a turnover period where we take five minutes and we rotate the things we do. We intercept balls, strip balls, scoop and score... as long as they know what we are trying to get accomplished.

"It is something you talk about, and we did a good job last year. If you don't talk about it, drill it, and rep it, it doesn't mean anything to them."

Now the Pack's confidence is sky-high defensively. State held Virginia well under their season yardage average, and the past two games they have forced an astounding nine turnovers. It is no coincidence that both games were victories for the Wolfpack.

"When Amerson intercepted that pass, our guys on the sidelines were saying, 'that's what we are supposed to do,"' said Archer. "The turnovers have been critical. Right now our turnover ratio is what is helping us win football games. That is obviously very important."

Against Florida State, a team that features an explosive offense and stout defense, NC State must be able to continue their thievery. If they don't, it could be a long day in Tallahassee.

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