football-fbs flag

Jeff Potrykus | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | December 28, 2016

Western Michigan emphasizing turnover prevention against Wisconsin

  Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell threw just three interceptions all season.

ARLINGTON, Texas — P.J. Fleck, who is 36 years old and has been a head football coach for four seasons, probably has 1,000 slogans in his playbook.

One that likely will be relevant when No. 14 Western Michigan (13-0) faces No. 8 Wisconsin (10-3) in the Cotton Bowl on Monday at AT&T Stadium is this:

"The ball is the program."

Translation: Don't turn the ball over.

Western Michigan, which finished minus-16 in turnover margin in Fleck's first season, enters the Cotton Bowl No. 2 nationally in turnover margin at plus-19.

The Broncos have forced 26 turnovers (15 interceptions and 11 fumbles) and have lost the ball just seven times (four fumbles and three interceptions).

They didn't suffer their first turnover until the seventh game of the season.

RELATED: Full list of bowl games and results

"A lot of it has to do with maturity," redshirt senior quarterback Zach Terrell, who has 45 starts and 48 games played, said Tuesday. "This isn't a new slogan or something we've just brought about. This is something Coach Fleck had from the beginning.

"We have a lot of guys at key positions who have played a lot of football. We've failed a lot. I can remember back to my redshirt freshman year. I turned the ball over a lot and we were minus-16.

"And this year we have a lot of older guys and that has really resonated with us. That has been a key part in turning it around and why we take the ball so seriously. We do it every day in practice.

"We never overlook the ball and the importance of it."

RELATED: Predictions for every bowl game

UW is tied for ninth nationally in turnover margin at plus-11. UW has forced 27 turnovers, including 21 interceptions.

Terrell has thrown 30 interceptions in four seasons and 892 attempts. He has completed 70.8 percent of his attempts this season (247-of-349) for 3,376 yards with 32 touchdowns and three interceptions.

"You have to take care of the football to win in this game," Fleck said. "Have to. If you don't, you're going to lose a lot of games."

Terrell impressed by Watt: Terrell expects to see outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who leads UW in sacks with 10.5 and tackles for loss with 14.5, in the backfield when the teams meet next week.

"He gets after it," Terrell said. "It looks like he just loves to play football. He loves to hit. He hits everything in sight.

"I know we're probably going to get a few face-to-face meetings and I look forward to that."

This article is written by Jeff Potrykus from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.

 

The best college sports traditions you've (maybe) never heard of

You've probably heard of Howard's Rock at Clemson and the dotting of the "i" at Ohio State. Here are some of the best college sports traditions that you've (maybe) never heard of.
READ MORE

College hockey bracketology: St. Cloud State, UMass still lead field; 3 new teams enter the fray

St. Cloud State still leads our latest projections for the 2019 16-team DI men's hockey NCAA tournament field.
READ MORE

11 must-watch games remaining this 2018-19 men’s hockey season

So much can change before the March 24 bracket announcement of the 2019 Division I Men’s Hockey Championship, just take a look at the past few days. As the conference standings and national rankings shuffle during the coming weeks, make sure to catch these 11 high-profile matchups.
READ MORE

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from NCAA.com and our partners