Oct. 22, 2012
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis. -- By simple definition, it’s a long flat-bottomed boat used for carrying heavy loads.
By Badger definition, it’s a lot of big-bottomed heavy loads carrying their own weight.
“We cut out the pretty guys,’’ said Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema.
The pretty guys?
“No wide receivers or quarterbacks,’’ he said. “We didn’t even have a fullback out there.’’
The formation breaks down to seven offensive lineman, two tight ends and two running backs.
“That’s what the coaches came up with,’’ said James White, cackling at the name selection. “In high school, when I did it, they called it the ‘WildWhite.’ It was pretty funny.’’
He cackled some more -- he has an all-conference laugh.
The Gophers weren’t laughing here Saturday.
“That’s good coaching on their part,’’ said Minnesota’s Jerry Kill, “and I credit them.’’
White is the pseudo- quarterback in the O-lineman-friendly formation that the Badgers unveiled against the Gophs. He gets the direct snap in the Barge, a variation of the Wildcat.
“It’s another opportunity to get me the ball,’’ he said, “and I’m trying to take advantage of it.’’
White is a product of one of the most successful high school programs in the country: St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. During his senior year, he was often used in a WildWhite role.
“We ran it quite a few times whenever the offense wasn’t working that well,’’ White recalled. “We had throwing plays, but we always ran. I handed off to people, too. It was pretty cool.’’
One such time was Oct. 31, 2009. Deerfield Beach held No. 1-ranked Aquinas to a season-low 10 points in the first half. On top of that, quarterback Jacob Rudock left the game with an ankle injury.
Coach George Smith turned to White and the Wildcat -- or WildWhite -- and White justified the decision by scoring on a 62-yard run to break open the game.
“It was a wide-open hole,’’ White explained afterward, “and I took off.’’
He had the same explanation for two of his long touchdown runs last Saturday at Camp Randall.
“The holes were wide open,’’ he said, “and I was just running straight.’’
Operating out of conventional formations, White scored from 34 and 48 yards. This was well after he had punctuated the debut of the Barge with a 14-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
On the latter, he said, “I’m just making my reads like a normal zone play, and I’m just trying to move the chains. It was pretty interesting to see how it worked (in a game), and it worked pretty well.’’
When the Badgers first began repping the Barge in practice, Montee Ball was taking the snap. But he didn’t feel comfortable in that role; certainly not as comfortable as White.
Why the Barge? Supply and demand. “At Wisconsin, we have a lot of big people,’’ Bielema said after Saturday’s 38-13 win over Minnesota. “And that got quite a few of them out there.’’
UW defensive tackle Ethan Hemer still wasn’t sure how it was going to all play out.
“I’ll be honest,’’ he said, “I was a little surprised when I saw it (against the Gophers) because they hadn’t been running it a lot in practice against us (the No. 1 defense).
“It’s unique. The first time I saw so many guys on the line, I thought, ‘What’s going on?’ But we tried something new and it was good to see. I was glad that it had success.’’
So was center Travis Frederick.
“I thought it was a great idea for us to get a chance to put seven offensive linemen on the field at the same time,’’ he said. “We take pride in putting the offense on our back -- good or bad.
“We took a lot of the blame early-on (this season) and we deserved it. But when we can put seven of us on the field and just run the ball …’’
“We feel very comfortable with our depth,’’ said UW offensive line coach Bart Miller. “And it’s a great way of getting the young guys who aren’t starting (like Tyler Marz) on the field and contributing.’’
In truth, the WildWhite was a sidebar to White running wild; a flashback to his freshman year.
White rushed 15 times for 175 yards, while Ball had 24 carries for 166; marking the second straight game that they each topped 100. Ball had 247 and White had 124 at Purdue.
In combining for 341 yards and five touchdowns against Minnesota, it was reminiscent of a 2010 win at Michigan during which White (181) and Ball (173) ran for 354 yards and six touchdowns.
From a production standpoint, the Ball-White tag team is approaching another historically significant Wisconsin running back tandem: Brent Moss and Terrell Fletcher.
Moss and Fletcher rushed for over 100 yards in the same game seven times (1993-94).
Ball and White have now done it five times over the last three seasons.
Like their predecessors, Ball and White have the utmost respect for their offensive linemen.
“We were doing a pretty good job up front and the running backs were doing a phenomenal job hitting the holes,’’ Frederick said. “They were making a guy miss or taking a hit and getting more yards.’’
During home games, Frederick doesn’t even have to look to see what is happening.
“When you hear the crowd roar,’’ he said. “You know it’s a big run.’’
And he added the best part about that is “when you take a little jog down to the end zone’’ and celebrate with either Ball and White. That type of “bonding’’ is rubbing off on everyone lately.
“We’re all climbing the graph, which is a good thing,’’ Hemer said. “We’re all getting better and making strides. There’s no limit to what this defense can do, and what this team can do.
“We have a really good team with a bunch of really good guys.
“It’s exciting to see where we can go.’’