JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – They're at it again. Last season, Jacksonville led the country with 24 picks and forced 30 total turnovers. As the conclusion of the 2015 season draws near, the Dolphins once again find themselves enjoying the fruits of another pick-filled season. Jacksonville is currently tied for first in the nation with 19 interceptions and its 27 forced turnovers is fifth in the FCS.
"I think that it's a result of a lot of the hard work that a lot of us have put in. It's not just the players, but it trickles down to everybody in the program as a result of hard work off the field. The defense as a whole does its job and we've got the results," said senior safety Dallas Jackson.
In digging deeper to the hard work that Jackson refers to, he credits the practice periods dedicated solely to forcing turnovers.
"It becomes muscle memory because our philosophy is that if you do it in practice then you will do it in a game. If you create good habits, or bad, they will carry over into the game. We're always trying to practice a strip or get our hands on the ball," said Jackson.
For the second consecutive year, Jackson has tied school single-season record for interceptions with five, and is one away from matching career-leader Tyrone Wright's 12.
The Dolphins are currently knotted up with fellow Pioneer Football League member Dayton for the interception lead. Coincidentally, Dayton was the last team to lead the FCS in interceptions in consecutive years, doing so in 2001 and 2002. After going back-to-back games without a turnover, the defense rallied with four interceptions at Campbell, including two from senior safety and PFL Co-Defensive Player of the Week Andrew Hooks.
"As a defense, we as DBs are only getting interceptions because of the way our linebackers and line play. You want to lead the nation in interceptions. We've done it once, and hopefully we can do it again," said Hooks.
The Dolphin defense is hungry for more of those tasty turnovers. Saturday's opponent, Valparaiso, is -12 in the turnover margin and has thrown 17 interceptions on the year. Only six other teams in the nation have thrown more passes in the hands of the defense.
Once again, the final product, an interception or fumble, will hopefully begin with pressure up front by the defensive line. Jacksonville ranks seventh in the FCS with 3.10 sacks per game.
"The d-line applies pressure to quarterbacks by compressing the pocket, chasing him, hitting him, or whatever it takes to make throws as difficult as possible," said senior bandit Tre Davis. "Tops in interceptions is definitely a concrete stat to attribute to our all-around speed and athleticism we have here. It's huge for all of JU football."