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Texas State Bobcats focused on takeaways
If Texas State has a resurgence on defense in 2011, fans can thank Gunner, the two-year-old grandson of head coach Dennis Franchione.
See, Franchione and his defensive staff wanted to ignite a fire underneath the Bobcats’ defense. Texas State desperately needed it after last season, where it allowed 34.3 points and 388.5 yards per game, which ranked the squad 95th out of 117 teams in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
More importantly, the Bobcats had to regain an edge in their tenacity. Texas State couldn’t buy a takeaway in 2010, forcing 23 fumbles, only recovering 10. The Bobcats brandished a turnover ratio of -.82, nestling them in between traditional powerhouses Morehead State and Weber State.
So Franchione and his coaches wondered how they could get their players aggressive again. Then, defensive coordinator Craig Naivar noticed Gunner.
“Every ball Gunner sees, he says, ‘My ball,’” Franchione said. “No matter whether he’s at a basketball game watching the Bobcats play or on the football field, it’s ‘My ball.’ Coach Naivar evidently liked it and brought it back to the meeting with the defense one of the next days.”
Now each day in practice, either a coach on the defense or a senior speak up above the rest on the sideline.
“Whose ball,” he yells.
“My ball,” the team responds in unison.
It goes two more rounds until the person who started the chant shouts out, “Then go get it then.”
From that moment on, a sense of urgency sweeps across whatever defense is on the field.
“It gets you motivated and your blood starts pumping,” sophomore defensive end Jordan Norfleet said. “Once the whole team is into it, you try everything you can to get that ball.”
And how does a defender rip it away from a stubborn ball carrier like sophomore running back Dexter Imade, who hasn’t turned the pigskin over once in six practices and only coughed it up twice in 2010?
“Violence,” Norfleet said. “Violent rips. Violent punches. Coach [Naivar] wants us to more violent on the field, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Maybe any other running back would shy away from the heat, but not Imade.
“You practice how you play,” Imade said. “We go hard. Everybody wants to get everyone better, so when we get into the game, it’s nothing.
“If they can get it out against other teams, that’s great, but I’m not going to let them rip it away from me.”
So far, Texas State’s defense forced 12 turnovers in the first six practices. If the Bobcats continue that pace throughout the season in games, they’d be on the cusp of greatness.
“If you averaged two takeaways per game in 2010, you’d finish in the middle of the pack of all Division I teams,” Naivar said. “If you could average three takeaways, you’re good enough to be in the Top 10. So we’re preaching at least three takeaways in practice to get these guys ready to take the next step.
“We got this mentality right now of ‘My ball.’ We’ve got it all over our meetings rooms. It’s not their ball, it’s ours.”
By Tyler Mayforth, Daily Record