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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 13, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Turnover ratio decides football games

One of the most exciting and climactic aspects of a football game has become indispensable to the Bombers’ success this season.

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From left, junior linebacker Zach Matuszak watches as senior safety Kevin Cline takes a knee in the end zone after intercepting a pass during the Bombers’ game against St. John Fisher College. DAN STATES/THE ITHACAN

The turnover ratio in each of the football team’s games this season has consistently changed the outcome. On offense and defense, plays that have single-handedly won games have involved a sudden change in possession. Fumbles and interceptions have also plagued the South Hill squad and are leading causes for both of the team’s losses.

In the team’s three wins, the Bombers have almost doubled their opponents’ forced turnovers, boasting a turnover ratio of 13:7. In the 37-18 win over Union College on Sept. 17, the Blue and Gold caused an impressive five turnovers. In that same game, the Bombers did not give the ball away once.

Senior cornerback Spence White has been the most effective enforcer for the Bombers’ defense, as he had forced four fumbles and picked off one pass. He said practices have instilled the turnover mentality of the defense.

“Every time the ball is on the ground we assume it’s ours — we did that in the preseason,” White said. “Every time there’s an incomplete pass, we all ran and picked up the ball, so it’s kind of gone over to the regular season.”

Junior free safety Josh Liemer has also been a key contributor to forcing turnovers from opponents. He leads the team with four interceptions and is the only Bomber to have more than one interception this season. Liemer said the team makes conscious decisions to gang tackle on defense.

“The first guy wraps him up, and then everyone else comes in to try and strip the ball and take the ball out,” Liemer said.

White said the team has specific drills in practice that help to promote causing turnovers.

“We have a tunnel where we try to tomahawk, strip balls out from the front and pry balls out from the back,” White said. “We’re always practicing different ways to get the ball.”

White made a one-on-one strip and fumble recovery on a second quarter swing pass in the team’s 13-10 overtime loss against Empire 8 Conference foe St. John Fisher College on Saturday. Senior strong safety Kevin Cline also had a timely interception in the Bombers’ end zone to thwart the Cardinals’ final drive in regulation.

St. John Fisher junior quarterback Ryan Kramer said though the Cardinals did not take any extra precaution going into the game to prepare for the aggressive Bomber defense, protecting the ball was the deciding factor in the game.

“Our job on the offense is to not turn the ball over, and in the second half we did a lot better with that,” Kramer said.

Turnovers ultimately ended up shutting the door on the Bombers in their two losses this season. Three interceptions by junior quarterback Jason Hendel in Saturday’s game, including one inside the Cardinals’ 20-yard line, deflated any momentum the team had.

White said forcing turnovers directly leads to positive outcomes for the Blue and Gold.

“We need to win the turnover battle in every game,” he said. “If we can do that, we’ll be successful.”