Takeaways were the talking point for IU football this season, but turnovers have become the story of 2017 for the Hoosiers.
The IU defense has created only eight takeaways through nine games. Meanwhile, IU has given the ball away 16 times.
IU lost the turnover battle for the fifth time this season Saturday during the 45-17 loss to No. 9 Wisconsin.
"It's a simple football game, but if you play, it's about protecting the football and creating takeaways," IU Coach Tom Allen said. "It was all about takeaways than anything, and that's all I've got to say about that."
A pair of fourth-quarter interceptions by senior quarterback Richard Lagow led to one-yard rushing touchdowns by Wisconsin. Those scores turned a seven-point lead for the Badgers into a 21-point advantage with only five minutes left in the game.
"It wasn't as much as what they were doing on defense," Lagow said. "But rather us shooting ourselves in the foot."
Saturday's game started well in the takeaway department for the Hoosiers. Wisconsin sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw a wayward pass into the IU end zone in the first quarter after being pressured by IU junior defensive tackle Jacob Robinson.
Senior linebacker Tegray Scales dove into the end zone and came away with the interception, his first of the season.
"We just had a blow up," Scales said. "I think somebody hit him (Hornibrook) or it was a tip pass. I don't even know, and I just had to make a play on the ball."
Chances continued to present themselves to the Hoosier defense throughout the day — Wisconsin fumbled the ball three times. But each time, the Badgers were able to jump on the loose ball and regain possession.
"It just comes down to grit," senior safety Chase Dutra said. "You've got to get it no matter what. Claw, scrape, scratch, whatever you got to do. You got to get the ball. If it's on the ground, it's ours. Today we couldn't capitalize on it."
Prior to Lagow's interceptions, the IU's first offensive turnover, and a play that changed the course of the game, came on a fumble by freshman running back Morgan Ellison.
The play occurred when IU had a 10-7 lead with seven minutes left in the first half.
Ellison was originally ruled down by contact on a short rush up the middle of the Wisconsin defense. However, after a video replay, officials ruled Ellison had not only lost possession of the football on his way to the ground, but the ball was also clearly recovered by Wisconsin, despite officials having blown their whistles before a recovery was made.
Wisconsin took two plays to score on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Hornibrook to sophomore wide receiver Quintez Cephus.
The fumble was IU's final offensive play with a lead in the game.
"The big thing was a whistle was blown," Allen said. "That became the issue, but apparently they said it wasn't blown. So that's all I was told."
For the most part this season, IU's takeaways and turnovers have dictated the team's wins and losses.
IU has won just one game this season in which it didn't win the turnover battle, and it was against FCS opponent Charleston Southern.
With three games remaining, the Hoosiers face must-win scenarios in each game to stay on course for an automatic bowl berth.
"At least we got the ball out today," Allen said. "No we've got to come up with it."