Dominant as ever, Badger ‘D’ still lacking turnovers

first_imgChris Borland leads the Badgers with 27 tackles this season, including three tackles for a total loss of four yards.[/media-credit]After dispatching its first three opponents by a combined score of 135-24, the Wisconsin football team has been forced to get a little picky in terms of keeping with the old sports saying of “never be satisfied.”But for the defense, there’s still one important ingredient missing: takeaways.Despite playing three weaker opponents so far this season, the Badger ‘D’ has managed to force just one turnover, down from four takeaways at this point last season.And according to sophomore linebacker Chris Borland, it’s become a bit of a concern for the defense lately in practice.“Yeah, it has (become a concern),” Borland said. “We want to get more turnovers. One in three games is unacceptable, and we’re just working on it in practice. Hopefully –  and we think it will – it’ll start to come in bunches.”Thanks to a frugal offense that has only given up one turnover itself – the first in nearly five-and-a-half games – Wisconsin’s turnover margin rests at an inert zero.With their natural ability to steal momentum for oneself and turn a game upside down, if the defense can start turning that ratio into a positive number, the Badgers could enter a new realm of efficiency.But pinpointing the cause of a takeaway drought is tricky business. The Badgers have certainly been able to get their hands on the ball and jar it loose at times this year, forcing four fumbles – recovering one – and deflecting 12 passes.Co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Chris Ash, for the most part, felt as though the defense hasn’t missed any opportunities in terms of interceptions.“Not necessarily interceptions,” Ash said. “There’s a couple that, you know, a little better break here or there and somebody could’ve made an interception, whether it be a DB or a linebacker.”Fumbles, on the other hand, is an area where UW has seen some results – but little profit. So far this season, at least one member from all three lines of defense has been able to pop the ball away from the carrier, but unfortunately, it has only bounced Wisconsin’s way once.The standard process of preying on the ball involves the first defender hitting the ball carrier with every intention of bringing him down. And as he does go down, a swarm of defenders rushes to wrest the ball free.Even for a defender who lines up the furthest from the ball – like safety Shelton Johnson – and has more time to read and react, he almost never thinks of attempting a solo effort.“Honestly, almost never,” Johnson said. “My first thought is to get them down. That’s like icing on the cake (to force a fumble), but the first thought should be to get them down.”And although the reliable process is ingrained into the minds of Wisconsin defenders, defensive end David Gilbert would still like to see improvement in focusing less on the big hits and zeroing in more on the ball itself when it comes to that swarm.“If you’re the second guy there, just having that awareness that it’s not all about just the hard hit,” he said. “The ball’s not just going to come out when you hit somebody; you got to rip at it, get ferocious in there.”“I think we just need to emphasize a few more things for a few more weeks and then this turnover talk will be over.”Even though the offenses of Wisconsin’s three opponents place in the middle or the lower half of the FBS rankings in scoring and total yards gained, neither of them has let go of the ball easily in this young season.Oregon State has lost the ball the most, with three turnovers, while Nevada-Las Vegas and Northern Illinois are two of just 20 teams in the nation who’ve lost possession only two times or less.But while the defense has seen noticeable improvements in tackling and run support since the season opener, the unit isn’t prepared to consider itself a finished product until it emerges from the pig-piles and downfield passes with the ball in hand more often.“We have a lot we can do better; turnovers are probably at the top of the list,” Borland said. “We’re not going to say we’re a great defense and just won’t get turnovers. We’re going to continue to improve at every aspect and add turnovers to the mix, I think that’s when we’ll say we’re a good defense.”last_img

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