Commentary

Turnover numbers making history

Florida is on pace to set a school record for fewest turnovers forced

Updated: December 23, 2011, 2:13 AM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The number is so low that even Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn can't help but wince every time he thinks about it.

The Gators forced just 12 turnovers in the regular season. Eight interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

That's it? Just 12? One per game on average? That's kind of hard to believe.

"Man, you're not kidding," Quinn said.

Despite all the emphasis in preseason practice about forcing turnovers, despite having T-shirts with a message about turnovers made for the players to wear, despite the constant harping during the season, Florida's defense managed to create just 12 turnovers. If the Gators don't get at least six in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl against Ohio State, they'll set the school mark for fewest turnovers forced in a single season since the school began compiling fumble stats in 1950.

The previous low was 17 in 2002.

It'll be hard to avoid setting the record for futility since the Gators forced just five turnovers in the final eight games of the season.

Quinn said he's stressing turnovers during the bowl practices even more than he did during the season. The practices have been more physical than they were during the season, more of what you'd have in the preseason, and Quinn is hoping that will make a difference.

"It's something that we emphasize hard, OK?" Quinn said. "It's going to have to come through the practice reps first. It starts in the bowl practice and we kind of recognize it and we say, 'OK, let's practice it again.' For us to have the type of talent that I feel like we have on defense and the style [of play], that is not acceptable."

Florida forced just one turnover in October. Cornerback Marcus Roberson's interception of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was the Gators' first turnover in nearly 14 quarters. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins dropped at least five potential interceptions before he got his first against Furman in game No. 11, and several defensive backs also dropped potential interceptions throughout the season.

[+] EnlargeDe'Ante Saunders
AP Photo/ Phil SandlinTrue freshman safety De'Ante Saunders (26) came on late in the season with two interceptions.
Safety Josh Evans said the reason the Gators -- who have forced fewer turnovers than every team but Central Michigan (11), Fresno State (11) and Minnesota (nine) -- struggled with turnovers this season is because of youth. Six of the 11 starters are sophomores or freshmen.

"I'd say we need to mature a little bit as a team," said Evans, a junior who intercepted one pass. "We were a young team this year, but there's no excuses in the SEC."

Just how historically bad has this season been in terms of forcing turnovers? The Gators had 34 seasons alone in which they forced more than 12 fumbles. They've only picked off fewer than 12 passes in a season eight times.

Just 12 turnovers is an amazingly small number. It needs to get much bigger in 2012.

"A lot," Quinn said.

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.

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