Troubling Turnovers

With only one turnover-free game all season and ranking near the bottom of the league in turnover margain, the Badgers need to find some fire in the last two weeks of the season.

MADISON – Turnovers can be a team's best friend and worst enemy. Defenses want them and offenses want no part of them. Turnovers can change the momentum of the game in a matter of seconds.

The Wisconsin Badgers know all about turnovers and not for the right reasons.

In 10 games this season, the Badgers have had only one turnover-free game all season and haven't created enough turnovers to make an impact on the scoreboard.

"It's frustrating when you look and hear about it," junior tight end Travis Beckum said. "(From an offensive standpoint), they are turnovers we can correct but haven't been able to so far."

The Badgers minus five turnover margin is among the worst in the conference, ranked ahead of only Northwestern (minus eight) and Minnesota (minus 13). Offensively, the Badgers have committed 17 turnovers (eight fumbles and nine interceptions) and have had only one turnover free game all season (at UNLV).

"That stuff happens and those are the kind of things we have to work at," Beckum said. "Unfortunately, they are going to happen and our defense is going to have to step up."

Other then a five turnover performance against Indiana, the Badger defense has not been able to consistently create turnovers. Wisconsin is tied for last in the league in creating turnovers, forcing just five fumbles and seven interceptions. Only four Badgers have registered an interception this season and free safety Shane Carter has grabbed four of them.

"We came ready to play (against Indiana)," Carter said. "We had been taking steps backwards but we took a step forward (against Indiana).We can't get down on ourselves when we don't make plays because we know that they'll come."

Another area of concern for the Badgers is the inability to cash turnovers into points. Of the 12 turnovers created by the defense, the Badgers have come away with only 23 points (three field goals and two touchdowns).

Against Indiana, the Badgers scored zero points off the five drives that began with a Hoosier turnover.

"It just means that we weren't able to execute," offensive lineman Kraig Urbik said. "If the defense gets a turnover, it's usually good field position. We've just got to execute and we haven't been able to."

Wisconsin's opponents, however, have been able to have much success turning a Wisconsin turnover into points, with some miscues being a game changing play.

Badger opponents have turned 17 turnovers turned into 37 points (three field goals, four touchdowns). Illinois' game-winning touchdown drive came off a Tyler Donovan interception; Penn State set the tone for the entire game when it recovered a P.J. Hill fumble on the first play of the game near the UW 20 and Ohio State recovered two fumbles inside the UW 25, converting one into a touchdown to put the game out of reach.

In the same regard, in past years where Wisconsin has returned a turnover for a touchdown (i.e. Jack Ikegwuonu's fumble against Minnesota in 2006 or Scott Starks fumble return at Purdue in 2004), Wisconsin has not come close to duplicating that result this season.

"From an offensive standpoint, it's just mental errors," Urbik said. "Zach (Brown) didn't get the play call (and fumbled) and the other (fumble) came off a sack. Guys aren't doing what they are supposed to be doing."

This Saturday when the Badgers host Michigan, Wisconsin will get a look at best turnover-creating defense in the conference. Michigan's 27 turnovers are tops in the Big Ten and its plus seven turnover margin is tied for second with Purdue.

With two games left in the season and still hope of a January 1st bowl, one of the goals set forth at the beginning of the season was to make the Michigan game a big game. With many incentives at stake for both teams, Wisconsin has accomplished that goal.

If the Badgers want to make it a close game, however, they are going to have hold onto the ball for an entire game and create some turnovers to go along with it.

"One of our goals this year was to make the Michigan game a big game and win it," Beckum said. "That is definitely a thing we are capable of. (We) look forward to playing in games like this."

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