Getting six wins used to call for a celebration at SMU. Not anymore. Just halfway through this season, the Mustangs are standing tall at 5-1 as they head into a tough road game this weekend at Southern Miss.
But June Jones has warned his team that if they don't produce positive numbers in the turnover department, they will be handed their second loss of the season.
SMU is currently ranked 119th out of 120 Football Subdivision schools with a minus-9 turnover margin, averaging minus-2 a game.
"We're lucky in the odds right now," Jones said. "We're 5-1 and have not been plus in the giveaway-takeaway. You go back and check a team who's minus-2, and like 98.5 percent of the time they lose the game. So that says something about what we have going and what the kids have put together.
"This game right here, we're not going to win on the road if we're minus in the giveaway-takeaway, I'm going to tell you right now. Maybe if we're at home, sometimes you can sneak away with it. But on the road, if you're minus, your chances of winning are very slim."
The Mustangs have one of their best defenses in years though. At the beginning of the year Jones said by season's end he wants his defense to be ranked in the Top 20 in the country. It's only October and they're No. 24, No. 2 in Conference USA.
That in mind, is Jones surprised they've been so poor at forcing turnovers?
"I am," he said. "We've had a lot of balls on the ground and had opportunities to pick them up, but for some reason we just haven't come up with them. I'm hoping that our final six games will be a complete reversal and we'll get all of them."
The defense has only recorded four forced fumbles and one interception this season. The pick came from linebacker Ja'Gared Davis against UTEP.
"Part of being a defense is creating turnovers," defensive back Ryan Smith said. "We realize the turnover deficit that we're in right now, but at the same time, you cant let that be your only focus. If we take care of the little things like running to the ball and trusting our technique and fundamentals, those things will start to happen.
"There's that theory that once they come, they come in bunches. I believe they'll come eventually and when they do, we need to capitalize."
Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis has been intercepted six times this season and has completed 64 percent of his passes, ranking him fifth in C-USA. The Golden Eagles also boast the conferences No. 1 rushing offense, but have lost nine fumbles. If SMU's defense plays smart and swarms the running game, maybe they'll have an edge on the turnover margin this weekend—a key to the game in Jones' eyes.
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