Defense feasts on created turnovers
Matthews emerges on unit that thrives on opponents' gaffes
Published: Sunday, November 3, 2013
Updated: Sunday, November 3, 2013 20:11
The Texas A&M defense once was known as the “Wrecking Crew” for its lockdown defensive play. And despite some struggles this season, the defense has found a calling in forcing turnovers.
For a unit that is allowing less than 30 points and 443 yards of total offense per game, the Aggie defense has been most statistically successful in forcing the opposing team into mistakes.
The defense has forced 19 turnovers so far this season, an average of more than two per game. Nine players have intercepted a pass, led by junior safety Howard Matthews, who is third in the SEC with three interceptions — all in the last two games.
“I wish [Matthews] would have started the year like this,” said head coach Kevin Sumlin. “We need to have that kind of consistent effort with the teams we are about to play. That’s going to be critical with his leadership.”
Seven different players have forced a fumble this year, and of the five recoveries, all have been by different players.
“We feed off each other,” said sophomore cornerback De’Vante Harris. “We fly around and we play with real
The Aggies have four different players with multiple interceptions this season — Matthews, Nate Askew, Deshazor Everett and Tommy Sanders. All but Sanders have returned an interception for a touchdown.
Turnovers have come with swings in momentum. Against Alabama, the defense forced a fumble near the goal line in the fourth quarter that propelled the near-Aggie comeback that came a touchdown short of knocking off the top-ranked team in the nation.
Two weeks ago against Vanderbilt, the Commodores went into the second half trailing only 28-17, but Matthews stepped in front of a pass to open the half and took it 26 yards for a touchdown, propelling the Aggies to a 56-24 victory.
“There has always been an emphasis this year on turnover ratio,” Sumlin said. “Our offense has been able to capitalize on those and score points. We are going to need that moving forward.”
The defense’s knack for forcing its opposition into third downs and its ability to stop offenses on that down has attributed to the success forcing turnovers. The Aggies have forced their opponents into 124 third downs on the season and have allowed teams to convert only 37 percent of them.
“Everybody has been swarming to the ball,” said junior defensive lineman Gavin Stansbury. “Everybody is giving off their own energy and bringing it to the team. I feel like this is going to carry on throughout the season.”