Entering their ninth game of the season, the Badgers had a -.75 turnover ratio (tenth in the Big Ten), forcing only two fumbles and five picks in eight games (seven turnovers ranked dead last in the league). With Indiana's No.2 scoring offense coming into Camp Randall (an offense that relies heavily on the big plays), it looked like Wisconsin would be in for a scary afternoon.
Sixty minutes and five turnovers later, Wisconsin's defense looks to have regained enough of its swagger back to save its season.
Left for dead only two weeks ago, the Badger defense created five turnovers and held Indiana to only 258 yards and a season-low three points in a dominating 33-3 victory.
Wisconsin's five turnovers were the most UW has had in a game since creating five against Purdue in 2005.
"Turnovers are definitely one of our keys to victory every week," defensive lineman Mike Newkirk said. "We really haven't taken advantage of it up to this point, but there were a lot of balls on the ground and it was something we were able to use to our advantage."
Five different Badgers created turnovers against Indiana and it was UW's first turnover that set the pace for the entire game.
With the Badgers already up 10 and Indiana at midfield in the first quarter, linebacker Jonathan Casillas was able to put his helmet on running back Josiah Sears, forcing the senior to cough up the football and Wisconsin was rewarded with its first turnover on the day.
"I just put my head around the ball and popped it out," Casillas said. "If you get a turnover like that, a forced fumble or interception, it gives us some energy on our side of the ball."
The Badgers continued to feed off that energy in the third quarter. Allen Langford gave the Badgers excellent field position when he picked off Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis on IU's 18-yard line, managing to keep his feet in the field of play, to give UW the ball.
"I saw the ball and I just wanted to go get it," Langford said. "I knew I was close to the sideline so I just wanted to keep my feet in bounce."
Although the Badgers couldn't cash in on the field position, the Hoosiers gave the ball right back to the Badgers on their next drive.
Once again driving into Wisconsin territory, Lewis completed a pass to standout wide receiver James Hardy. Once completed, Wisconsin safety Kim Royston was right there to rip the ball from the junior wide out and senior Nick Hayden didn't miss a beat, recovering his second fumble of the day.
"We were creating those turnovers," said Bielema, referring to Royston's hit on Hardy and Casillas hit on Sears. "You see guys attacking the football, which carries over to turnovers. There were some solid collisions with two guys to the ball."
Early in the fourth quarter with UW having a 21-point lead, Kellen Lewis, who fumbled three times last weekend against Penn State, ruined any chance of a comeback with the costliest turnover of the game.
Escaping a Badger rush, Lewis scrambled 19 yards downfield to the Badger 26, but lost the grip of the football when freshman Aaron Henry laid a hit on the sophomore quarterback. The ball bounced into the hands of DeAndre Levy and any hopes of a comeback were tarnished.
"We noticed that (Lewis) carried the ball pretty loosely," linebacker Elijah Hodge said. "Anytime you tackle him, you want to go after the ball. Creating turnovers (against Lewis) was the key focus of today."
With six seconds left in the game, Lewis was picked off by sophomore Josh Nettles, his first career interception, to end the turnover charade.
Entering the game, Indiana had committed 11 fumbles and six interceptions. According to head coach Bill Lynch, ball security is focus number one starting Monday.
"With the amount of turnovers we had, it really limits us offensively," he said. "(The turnovers) weren't the difference in the game today, but it certainly takes away any opportunity you have of catching up."
After allowing its last three opponents to gain over 400 yards and forcing only three turnovers, Wisconsin's defense has limited its last two opponents to gain a combined 357 total yards while forcing five turnovers. Seemingly having been resurrected off the scrap pile, the Badger defense is clicking heading into their toughest challenge of the year at Ohio State.
"We know we're a good defense (and) had to basically start proving it," Casillas said. "The coaches have been emphasizing tackling and forcing turnovers in practice. We just had to execute.
"We had two consistent weeks in a row where the defense shuts the opponent down. We forced turnovers and if this can propel us next week, that would be great."