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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Despite record, Badgers need to force more turnovers

[media-credit name=’JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]FB_No11_JS[/media-credit]A lot has been made, through the first four weeks of the Wisconsin football season, of the UW defense not playing up to preseason expectations.

Against the likes of a second-division major conference team, a non-Bowl Championship Series conference team and a Division I-AA squad, the UW defense hemorrhaged yardage to the tune of 309.8 yards per game. Instead of shutting opponents down defensively as great defenses returning eight starters would be expected to, the Badgers skated through the nonconference slate.

Last Saturday against Iowa, save a late first-half touchdown drive, the defense flashed the tenacity that was expected.

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But despite allowing a scant 228 yards of total offense to the Hawkeyes, something was still missing from the defensive equation. The Badgers failed to force any Iowa turnovers.

For the season, UW has only created three turnovers defensively — all on interceptions, one of which was on a fake punt.

"Turnovers just don't happen, you have to go get them," said free safety Shane Carter, the UW defender responsible for two of the defense's interceptions. "So really you just point the finger at ourselves and say, ‘We ain't making plays.'"

Instead of dwelling on the negatives of the situation, players and coaches are finding the silver lining of the defensive cloud.

"We're not achieving what we wanted to achieve maybe defensively, but at the same time we're 4-0," strong safety Aubrey Pleasant said. "So where's your pleasure: do you want to have five turnovers a game and be 0-4? You have to try and make the best of both worlds and take those opportunities when they come your way."

"We're not happy with [only three turnovers], but we're 4-0 … Obviously it's an area we want to improve in," defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz said, echoing Pleasant's sentiment.

Not only do turnovers help keep a defense fresh and limit the opposing offense’s efficiency, they can also have a positive impact on a team's own offense.

"If our offense isn't performing to what they would like, we want to make those turnovers, maybe get that boost and get our offense going," Pleasant said.

In fact, according to Pleasant, the numbers may not reflect as much on the defensive play as on circumstance.

"From my point of view, there haven't been a lot of opportunities for many turnovers," Pleasant said. "Last game a couple guys dropped something that could have been an interception, but besides Shane capitalizing on those interceptions those first couple games, the ball really wasn't in the air a lot of times for people to make plays.

"It can become frustrating at times, but that's just the flow of the game."

A lot of the lack of opportunities has to do with the teams UW played early in the season. While teams like UNLV and The Citadel may not be prolific offenses, the style of attack the two teams ran limited the possibilities to force turnovers.

"They threw it quickly," Hankwitz said. "They run five-step passing game and three-step (dropbacks), and they were getting rid of the ball.

We had people close, but they get rid of it so quick, we weren't getting there."

When opportunities have presented themselves, the defense hasn't always taken advantage.

"We've dropped a couple interceptions that we had great chances for, and we have to get more people to the ball so we can have a chance to knock it out," Hankwitz said.

The lack of turnovers continues to get attention during practice as the Badgers focus on swarming more defenders to the ball carrier in hopes of stripping the ball free.

"We've just got to keep attacking, keep attacking the ball carriers," defensive tackle Nick Hayden said. "’Plus one,' we keep saying — more defenders to the ball, ripping it out, trying to strip it out.

"They'll come. We just have to keep practicing and getting better at it."

When the next turnover opportunity arises for the UW defense, the Badgers will be ready.

"It's just like life, … when you think something's not coming and you relax, you kind of lull off and that's when they hit it," Pleasant said.

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