UMass defense looking to create more turnovers

Last modified: Wednesday, November 11, 2015
AMHERST — UMass football coach Mark Whipple has been talking a lot in recent weeks about his defense’s need to produce more turnovers.

He’s hoping this week his team breaks through when it hosts Toledo at Gillette Stadium, Saturday at 3 p.m.

“It was a focus (Wednesday) at the end of practice,” Whipple said. “We’ve been working at it. Sometimes they come in bunches. I’ve done this enough where you can’t get anything and then all of a sudden you get four. I’m hoping that’s the case this week. We’ll need them against these guys.”

Senior Trey Dudley-Giles said positioning is key.

“We can improve on it. It’s just being at the right place at the right time. It you do your job turnovers will come,” he said. “We need to win the turnover battle this weekend to win this game.”

Whipple said momentum is as valuable as the additional possession.

A turnover “sparks some momentum. It can change the game,” he said. “We have to hit people and cause them to put the ball on the ground and then get it. We’ve been working at it.”

Toledo has been among the league’s more opportunistic teams with six interceptions and five fumble recoveries. The Rockets are a plus-5 in turnover margin with just two fumbles and four lost. Junior Chaz Whittaker and senior Rolan Milligan each have two interceptions.

UMass (minus-4) has recovered just one of four fumbles lost by its opponents and has picked off just five passes, compared to its own five lost fumbles and five interceptions. The Minutemen have been outscored in points off turnovers, 51-20.

INJURIES — Linebacker Trey Seals and cornerback Kelton Brackett missed Wednesday’s practice with undisclosed injuries.

Both players’ status for Saturday has yet to be determined.

Redshirt freshman safety Charan Singh, who missed Tuesday’s practice, and junior linebacker Peter Ngobidi, who missed Saturday’s game, returned to practice.

Ngobidi, who is normally a second-string outside linebacker, would likely see more playing time if Seals can’t go. Da’Sean Downey will also likely see more snaps at OLB.

Junior Jordin Hamilton, and freshmen James Oliphanant and Lee Moses would likely divvy up Brackett’s lost snaps.

If Brackett can’t go, he’d miss the chance to compete against Milligan, a second-string safety for the Rockets. Brackett and Milligan were members of the secondary at Alabama-Birmingham before that school temporarily discontinued its football program.

UAB has since decided to reinstate the program and will begin playing again in 2017.

Brackett will see another former Blazer, safety Jordan Collier, when UMass plays at Buffalo in November.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage