When you are a successful team that can throw points on the board in bunches like the Washington and Jefferson Presidents, sometimes you still need a defense that can force big plays.
That’s been the staple for the Presidents during Mike Sirianni’s tenure.
That’s also something that showed up in a big way last Saturday during W&J’s big win against Thomas More.
While the Presidents’ offense lit up the scoreboard for over 50 points once again, they may not be sitting at 4-0 and ranked No. 20 if it weren’t for their defense making big play after big play against the Saints.
With the game tight in the second half, the Presidents’ defense stepped up and started forcing one turnover after another, until they ultimately made the Saints cough up the ball five times on the night in what ended up being a blowout victory.
“Five turnovers is huge,” said defensive captain and Freeport graduate Jon Turner. “It’s not only huge for us as a defense, but huge for our offense. We want to make big plays as a defense and get our offense the ball as much as possible.”
So far the big play has been there for the Presidents as through four games they have forced 13 turnovers already, which is big considering that the W&J offense has only coughed the ball up three times on the season.
While to date this hasn’t been a dominant defense from a younger W&J team than we are used to seeing, as opposing teams have had success making the big play on W&J, the Presidents have had success making plays when they have had to.
Naturally Sirianni would like to see a more consistent effort from his defense the rest of the way, but so far he is pleased in the results.
“We have done a great job with turnover margin,” said Sirianni. “We have made plays when we have had to, which is big. But we have allowed way too many big plays that have either resulted in long touchdowns or plays that have led up to touchdowns. That has to stop. We need to make teams start having to drive the field.”
To date the Presidents have allowed six scoring plays of 40 yards or more and several other big plays that have changed the field position in the game rather quickly.
For them to capture a third straight PAC championship and hopefully a home playoff game, that number has to come down.
“We have a lot to work on,” said Turner. ‘The biggest thing is eliminating the missed tackles. We have to improve there and we have to stay focused, especially on third down.”
While it seems like everyone in the W&J uniform has had a part in making big plays on the defensive side of the ball, Sirianni can usually count on Turner being somewhere in the mix.
Through four games Turner has racked up 23 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and 8.5 tackles for loss.
Since he has been on the field for W&J, Turner has shown a knack for finding the ball and brings a lot of energy to the Presidents’ defense.
That is something that the rest of the unit seems to feed off of.
When W&J takes the field on Saturday against Grove City, a team that has always played them tough, Turner will look to see more improvement from the defense as a whole.
“We are coming together nicely,” added Turner. “We just have to work on cleaning up a few things. We don’t want a slip up like we had last year against Bethany. We want that PAC championship and a home playoff game.”
As long as they keep making big plays, that is something that seems very likely.
Photo Credit: W&J