Owls’ defense getting back to basics, looking to keep up turnovers

The Owls have been ball hawks lately.

In the last two weeks, Kennesaw State (3-1) has six interceptions and two fumble recoveries. But although the defense has been perfecting the takeaway as of recent, coaches are still not completely pleased with the unit’s performance, especially in the team’s 52-42 win over Furman (0-5) last week.

“I don’t feel good about the way that we played,” defensive coordinator Brian Newberry said. “That’s probably as poorly as we’ve played overall since I’ve been here. … We didn’t tackle well and we didn’t execute.”

Newberry added that the team is playing really hard, but would be “getting back to the fundamentals” this week in practice to avoid another similar showing. Coach Brian Bohannon said the team had some additional running to do for its penalties to make sure players were focusing on the little aspects of the game going forward.

But while the coaches are trying to make sure players stay concerned with the basics, they are also making sure the Owls are prepared to take the ball away when given the chance.

Players said the team’s turnover drills have been a big help and Newberry said he and his staff told the team they are looking for three takeaways each game.

KSU will have to work hard Saturday if it wants to force turnovers against Missouri S&T (3-2, 2-1 Great Lakes Valley). The Miners only have five turnovers on the year, but three of them were returned for touchdowns.

Safety Dante Blackmon has some experience with turning another team’s mistake into KSU points. Blackmon has four picks in the last two games and he ran one back for a touchdown two weeks ago in the Owls’ 36-28 victory against Duquesne (3-2).

But Blackmon, just like the rest of the team, said he is most concerned with making sure the defense does not allow 42 points again or allow another big lead to dissipate.

“We definitely can’t let that happen again,” Blackmon said. “We’re just going to have to make some corrections, do some things, mostly on our part, to reduce that.”

KSU will be tested Saturday against a Missouri S&T offense that averages 38 points per game and has an equal number of rushing and passing touchdowns — 11.

But for the Owls, the opponent is not important right now. The team said its focus is on itself and fixing what is wrong and making sure to continue to do what has worked.

One of the points of emphasis is bringing down the ball carrier. Coaches and linebacker Izzy Sam said the defense needs to focus on its tackling and angles if the unit wants to put together a better defensive performance.

“It’s really going to be about ourselves this whole game and for the rest of the season,” Sam said. “We’re really trying to prove a point and show that we really are the defense that we say we are.”

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