It was an historic day in Mount Pleasant, Michigan on Saturday for the Kansas Jayhawks, and there was no shortage of impressive stats and numbers I could focus on. It’s amazing how that happens when the team wins.
I’m not going to talk about the streak, because if you’ve looked at a screen this weekend, you’ve likely read something about it. I’m also not going to use this article to talk about Pooka Williams, even though he was electric and extremely fun to watch.
Instead, the defense was the dominant force in this game, so this unit deserves the coverage of this article. I’m going to look at a unlikely feat from the defense that was one of the biggest reasons Kansas was able to win so emphatically.
The Kansas defense forced Central Michigan into six turnovers: four interceptions by quarterback Tony Poljan and two fumble recoveries.
Saturday’s game was a great example of turning defense into offense. KU had plenty of short fields to work with, the interception by Joe Dineen led to another Pooka Williams’ rushing touchdown, and then Shakial Taylor took the scoring into his own hands with a pick-6.
Six turnovers in a game is a rare accomplishment for any defense, but it especially has been for Kansas. This is only the third time it has happened in more than a decade. For the last time Kansas did this, look no further than the 2016 stunner of Texas. The Jayhawks forced six turnovers—three interceptions and three fumble recoveries—in a 24-21 victory in the lone Big 12 win of David Beaty’s career.
To find another example before that, you have to go back to 2006, when Kansas turned K-State over six times in the second-to-last game of the year. That was back when Kerry Meier was the top QB on the roster. However, I will also mention the Orange Bowl team a year later forced five turnovers in a game three different times that year on the way to forcing 35 for the season. Those were the days.
Turnovers can be a fluky stat. Balls bounce a certain way or a pass gets tipped and falls into the hands of a lucky defense. But it also doesn’t come from nowhere. There was some strong secondary play to force those interceptions.
Still, it’s nice to see KU on the right end of the turnover battle. Last season, Kansas only forced nine turnovers (9!) the entire season. The Jayhawks are already at seven in two games. Obviously that ratio won’t be sustainable, but it’s going to be an improvement. Forcing turnovers will be a key way to stay in games and potentially pull an upset or two.