Published November 20, 2014
Miami coach Randy Shannon has been telling his defense the same thing for years. Once a team gets a knack for creating turnovers, they tend to come in bunches.
Such was the case against Clemson.
And the Hurricanes wouldn't mind seeing it happen this weekend against No. 23 Florida State.
The 13th-ranked Hurricanes (3-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) had six takeaways last weekend in their league-opener at Clemson, the most turnovers a Miami team forced since 2005 — and, maybe most amazingly, two more than it had in the first three games of this year combined. It's a point of emphasis again this week, with good reason.
Since 2000, when turning the ball over four or more times, Florida State is 6-13. With three turnovers or less, the 'Noles are 83-32.
"A lot of it's luck," Shannon acknowledged Tuesday. "But once you get it going, it becomes a frenzy. It becomes second nature. When you watch the Clemson game, we had some fumbles because of hard hits, three or four guys to the ball, making a tackle and then another guy throws himself on the ball. We've had interceptions late in games. These guys believe it in now."
Only one major college team has forced more turnovers in a game this season than Miami did against Clemson: Oregon had seven takeaways against Arizona State on Sept. 25.
Against Clemson, the six takeaways had six different responsible parties. Marcus Forston, Ray-Ray Armstrong and Ryan Hill had interceptions. Sean Spence, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Andrew Smith forced fumbles.
Van Dyke's might have been the biggest play of his Miami career.
Beaten for a 20-yard gain by Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins, Van Dyke stayed with the play and knocked the ball loose, then picked it up for a huge momentum swing — and one of the biggest plays of what became a 30-21 Miami win, Shannon said.
"He got beat inside, then did everything right: Secure, strip, pull the ball out," Shannon said. "We needed that one in the worst way."
Florida State (4-1, 2-0) has been consistent, though not necessarily spectacular, in the turnover-taking department.
The Seminoles have forced eight so far this season, two in each of their last three games. Of the eight takeaways, five have come off interceptions.
"That's the name of the game on defense ... affect the quarterback," Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Chances are, there will be a defensive touchdown on Saturday night: Miami and Florida State have combined for nine non-offensive TDs in their last 10 meetings, seven of which have been won by the Hurricanes.
Either way, the takeaway battle will likely be more vital than usual, Miami defensive lineman Allen Bailey said.
"It motivates the offense to score, because we're giving them opportunities," Bailey said. "I guess people are really putting it into affect now, using it, using the coaching."
Just as Shannon predicted, in other words.
Once the turnover snowball starts rolling, Shannon insists it's tough to stop.
"It's a point that coach Shannon and (defensive coordinator John Lovett) emphasized so highly over spring football and over fall camp," cornerback Brandon Harris said. "We were getting punished severely for not coming up with turnovers in practice. To have that game with an explosion of turnovers, six in one game, it was amazing."
"We ran," Harris said.
Now they're all just running to the ball on defense instead.
"That's the special part of this defense," Harris said. "It's not just one or two guys you can depend on."