In each of its first three games this season, Georgia State has had a turnover returned for a touchdown.
In its first three games this season, Georgia State has 10 turnovers, putting it on pace for 40 turnovers this season. Those 10 turnovers can be tied to 53 points for the Panthers’ opponents.
Georgia State had 30 turnovers last year when it finished with the worst turnover margin in FBS.
The team worked on ball security throughout the offseason, but it’s a problem the Panthers simply can’t solve. Instead of getting better at holding onto the ball, the Panthers are getting worse. Instead of being 2-1, the turnovers have contributed to the team starting 1-2.
“We do about every drill there is in America to keep from having turnovers,” coach Trent Miles said. “We do them every day.”
He’s not exaggerating.
Each practice starts with every player on offense running through a strip drill, a gauntlet drill, and recovery drill.
Still, the turnovers keep coming:
The Panthers had three turnovers in the first quarter of its season-opening loss at Charlotte. Those turnovers proved to be the difference in the game because the 49ers turned them into 10 points in a 23-20 win.
The Panthers had three turnovers against New Mexico State, including a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Another fumble was turned into a touchdown pass on the next play.
They had three more turnovers in the first half against Oregon that were turned into 17 points. There was also a fumble returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Some of the turnovers are the result of bad luck, some bad decisions and some good plays by the other team.
Against Oregon all three happened.
The first two interceptions were the result of tipped passes. The first came on a slightly high pass that was tipped by wide receiver Nyiakki Height to a cornerback who was out of position. The second was tipped by a defensive lineman because Miles said the offensive lineman wasn’t aggressive enough in his blocking to get the player’s hands down.
Miles said he’s not about to stop worrying about in hopes that the percentages will eventually even out.
He said reducing turnovers comes down to making better decisions. For example, instead of trying to beat three men, take the yards and fall so that the offense gets another down. Don’t throw into tight coverage.
It is a fine line that the players are walking because sometimes playing tough and playing smart can be difficult to do at the same time.
So, the Panthers will continue to work at trying to hold on to the ball.
“Take care of it, preach it and work it. That’s about all you can do,” Miles said.
Let’s go through each of the turnovers and try to describe what happened:
Charlotte: Wide receiver Glenn Smith fumbles as he is being tackled. I’ve watched the play a dozen times and I think his knee and elbow were down. But it’s ruled a fumble and was returned for a touchdown.
Points total because of turnovers: Plus 7 off the turnover.
Charlotte: Nick Arbuckle throws an interception in the end zone. He later said he thought he saw one coverage, but the 49ers changed.
Points total because of turnovers: Plus 17 off the turnover because this was in the end zone and took away a chance for Georgia State to score. And the 49ers took the ball and kicked a field goal on their next drive.
Charlotte: A defender puts his helmet right on the ball as Kyler Neal is running after catching a screen pass.
Points total because of turnovers: Still as plus 17 because the 49ers would also lose the ball.
New Mexico State: Wide receiver Robert Davis fumbles on the 10-yard line because he was reaching out with the ball to try to gain more yards. It is returned for a touchdown.
Points total because of turnovers: Plus 23 now after the Aggies miss the extra point.
New Mexico State: Arbuckle is intercepted on what the coaches later said was a pass that was thrown slightly late.
Points total because of turnovers: Still at plus-23 because New Mexico State is forced to punt.
New Mexico State: Marcus Caffey fumbles when, once again, a defender puts his helmet right on the ball.
Points total because of turnovers: Rises to plus-29 because the Aggies score on a 33-yard touchdown pass on the next play. They again miss the extra point.
Oregon: Pass is tipped, intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
Points total because of turnovers: Rises to plus-36.
Oregon: Fumble by Height that is returned to Georgia State’s 26-yard line.
Points total because of turnovers: Rises to plus-39 because Oregon kicks a field goal on its next drive.
Oregon: Pass is tipped, intercepted and returned to Georgia State’s 40-yard line.
Points total because of turnovers: Rises to plus-46 because Oregon scores a touchdown on its next drive.
Oregon: Arbuckle fumbles as he is sacked. An Oregon player returns the fumble for a 52-yard touchdown.
Oregon: Rises to plus-53.