Simply Secure

In nine games, No.6 Wisconsin has turned the ball over only seven times, given up just nine sacks and leads the country in fewest penalties per game. No wonder the Badgers are three victories away from a BCS birth.

MADISON — If there was one stat to record the amount of times a team shoots itself in the foot, the Wisconsin football team would have the lowest total in the league without question.

The Badgers rank No. 1 in the Big Ten in penalties taken, No. 2 in turnovers given up and third in the conference in sacks allowed. Add it all up, and they rank No. 1 in fewest bone-headed errors.

The recipe of not beating ones self is something all teams try to follow, but no team in the Big Ten has pulled it off quite like the Badgers.

"That is how we win games here," UW quarterback Scott Tolzien said. "We might not have the most talented team always on the field, but that is our recipe for success, to play smart football and disciplined football."

No position group exemplifies the standard of avoiding mistakes more than the running backs.

Through 328 carries, the half backs have lost exactly one fumble this season — a stat so sensational Tolzien was trying to figure out a way to reverse the jinx after the question was asked of him.

Considering the running backs put the ball on the ground a whopping six times against Wofford alone last season, the turn around has been all the most impressive.

"I think it has to do with guys being more focused on it, more in tuned with it," UW running backs coach John Settle said. "Every coach on offense stresses it.

"It is something we practice every day of the week, but we really get after it physically on Tuesday, Wednesday. We do things to put stress on the ball to make sure they have it tucked away properly."

True freshman James White, the only running back with a lost fumble to his name, learned quickly it is hard to get back on the field after putting the ball on the ground. White's mistake — trying to stretch the ball over the pylon for his first career touchdown in Week 2 — was understandable at least.

Even better, it has proven to be correctable as White hasn't coughed it up since.

"It is always good when you have guys that learn from their mistakes and move forward," Settle said. "It happened to him early and it seems to have a lasting effect with him. It was pretty easy to get his attention to it."

With the inevitable letdown half the Badgers experienced at Purdue last Saturday, the ability to avoid costly mistakes proved even more of a boon.

Wisconsin entered the half trailing by just four points instead of a potentially greater margin for a less disciplined team. Then when freshman quarterback Sean Robinson played like a fourth-string rookie, the Badgers were easily able to overcome the deficit.

"Not beating yourself is a key to our game because we are not a flashy team that can make a big mistake and then rip one down the field 60 yards," senior guard John Moffitt said. "We have to have steady production for how we play football and it is effective when you don't fumble, turn the ball over, get sacked, things like that.

"It is not accepted by the coaches and it is not accepted by us. Those [mistakes] are not tolerated and they are not tolerated in practice which I think carries over to the game."

With all starters except one returning to the offense after last season, the experience of the group made it easy to impress on them the importance of cutting down mental mistakes.

Or as Settle said, "older guys make my job easier."

"The guys do a heck of a job accepting responsibility for our actions. If you mess up in practice they know they are pulled right out, and those type of things add up," Settle said. "The biggest thing, is it has to be a pride factor. And that stuff comes with focus.

"If you are busy beating yourself you are not beating the other team."

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