Turnovers forced by the Brigham Young Cougars defense in 2011 were key to several early wins. The BYU defense paved the way to wins 35 years ago the exact same way.
The 1977 Cougar offense garnered a lot of attention, but the defense did them one better. Cougar defenders generated more turnovers than the offense scored touchdowns. BYU scored 55 offensive touchdowns, and finished second in the nation in scoring (39.4 points per game). However, the defense finished first in the nation in takeaways with 56.
Cornerback Bob Prested led the way with eight turnovers. He intercepted a team high five passes and recovered three fumbles. Prested shared team high honors for fumble recoveries with strong safety Jason Coloma, linebacker Larry Miller, and defensive end Ross Varner.
Prested may have led the team in interceptions, but his 78 return yards on those interceptions were a distant second. Marc Swenson returned his only interception 92 yards.
Swenson was one of three defenders to score a touchdown off of a turnover in 1977. Free safety Ron Velasco and Miller were the others.
Turnovers played a key role in the second game of the season against Utah State. The Cougar D forced two in the first three minutes of the game. These turnovers were quickly turned into touchdowns and a 14-0 lead. BYU went on to win 65-6.
The Wyoming game was another game the BYU defense helped the team to a win through turnovers. The Cougars recovered seven fumbles to limit Wyoming to seven points. All seven of those fumbles were needed in the 10-7 win because the offense threw six interceptions.
Trying to beat BYU at its own game (passing), UTEP took an early 13-7 lead ten minutes into the game. The Miners would only score six more points in the final 50 minutes. The Cougar defense forced ten turnovers in the game—four fumbles and six interceptions. BYU returned those six interceptions a combined 230 yards to set a WAC record. BYU cruised to a 68-19 win.
For the season, the BYU defense recovered 36 fumbles and intercepted 20 passes. The 56 turnovers in 11 games averages out to over five turnovers per game. No wonder BYU finished with a very good 9-2 record. It is hard to lose games when the defense is taking the ball away more than once per quarter.
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