Turnover drought? Michigan defense trying to rekindle turnover magic of 2011
ANN ARBOR -- It's easy, on the surface, to look back at the 2011 Michigan football team's defense as a massive success.
The Wolverines improved in just about every single category throughout the 13-game season, allowing nearly 1,700 fewer yards and a whopping 30 fewer touchdowns.
It wasn't without its missteps, though. Especially early. Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder moved the ball relatively easy in a shortened season-opener, and Notre Dame followed that up with more than 500 yards against the Wolverines in week two.
But the difference for Michigan early, and for the rest of the season for that matter, was always turnovers. Michigan benefitted from a Big Ten-best 29 turnovers last season, including a nation-leading 20 fumble recoveries.
Through two games a year ago, the Wolverines had forced eight turnovers and scored two defensive touchdowns.
Through two games this year, Michigan has forced one turnover -- a meaningless fumble near halftime of the Alabama game.
"The best question (is) why (we haven't gotten more)," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "Air Force had the ball on the ground twice. Once with the fullback and the ball jumped back into his hands, but, you know, I think we emphasize it and talk about it. Every day in practice if there's a ball on the ground, no matter what, our guys are scooping it.
"The emphasis on getting the ball (back is there). But I do think you need to have more guys to the football at times, more hats on the football."
Part of the early forced turnover woes could deal with Michigan's first two opponents. Alabama is, without question, the best team in America and is led by a highly-experienced senior quarterback. Air Force, meanwhile, was a run-heavy foe with supreme ball-security.
Combined, Alabama and Air Force have one turnover through two games.
But regardless, Michigan says it shouldn't matter. Greg Mattison's defense prided itself on forcing, creating and capitalizing on turnovers this season, and one way or another they say it needs to start happening again.
"We've got to get them," Michigan cornerback J.T. Floyd. "That's stealing extra possessions. Coach Hoke always says you play your best defense when your offense is on the field.
"Turnovers are one of those things, they're not given to you. You've got to, sort of, go that extra mile to get them. I think they're coming."
Hoke says he'd like to have more hats on the football moving forward, as in, he wants all 11 defenders around the ball -- no matter what -- on every play. He doesn't feel like the Wolverines have been lacking in that department, but the emphasis on the point needs to remain consistent moving forward.
"We've been (a bit) unfortunate (there)," Michigan safety Thomas Gordon said. "We still preach getting to the football and creating turnovers. That's one of our staples as a defense.
"We just haven't been able to get them lately."
Michigan isn't exactly sure why it's not creating turnovers at a similar rate to last season, but that part doesn't matter.
They just need them -- period.