Jonathan Valadez" />
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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Turnover margin is the Cougars’ key to success


Senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. was responsible for three turnovers in the game against Navy and needs to help protect the ball if the Cougars want to get back to winning games. | File photo/The Cougar

After their second loss in three games, the Cougars look for a rebound when they host the University of Central Florida Knights Saturday.

Entering the season, the team that prided itself on its ability to take the ball away on defense while protecting it on offense has done otherwise in its recent defeats. It struggled in almost every aspect of the game.

In those two games, the Cougars possess a minus-four takeaway margin, which moved their total into the negative on the season.

Not only did they turn the ball over, but the defense did a poor job of stopping the opposing offense after the fact.

The Cougars turned the ball over five times in their losses. The United States Naval Academy Midshipmen and the Southern Methodist University Mustangs took advantage of this and combined to score 24 points off of the Cougars’ errors.

Together, Navy and SMU scored on 4-of-5 turnovers. The only time one of them failed to score was when the Mustangs missed a 41-yard field goal attempt.

It’s not like the teams were handed the ball deep into the Cougars’ territory. With the exception of a six-yard interception return for a touchdown, Navy and SMU traveled almost half the field after they recovered the football.

Meanwhile, Cougars’ defense only forced the ball out one time in those two games. The fumble recovery, however, resulted in an offensive touchdown for the Cougars, but the score was already 21-7 in SMU’s favor at that point.

Against the Knights, the Cougars face a team that is dead-even in turnover margin and coming off of a win against the University of Connecticut. Although they have turned the ball over 11 times, the Knights have forced five fumbles and grabbed six interceptions.

They’ll look to add to that total against a sputtering Cougars offense.

If the Cougars expect to get back on track versus the Knights, the offensive playmakers need to hold on to the ball, and the defense has to revert back to its old ways of stopping the run and getting the ball.

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