July 6, 2013
Over the course of two weeks, UW Athletics will look back on the Badgers' biggest accomplishments during the 2012-13 season.
MADISON, Wis. -- Coming off his record-setting junior season, Wisconsin RB Montee Ball was poised to cap off a record-setting career in 2012.
He did just that, leading the Badgers to a third-consecutive Big Ten championship along the way.
After leading the nation in rushing with 1,923 yards and matching Barry Sanders' all-time FBS record with 39 touchdowns on his way to a spot at the Heisman Trophy ceremony in 2011, Ball put together a strong encore as a senior.
He tallied 1,830 yards to rank second nationally in rushing and scored 22 more touchdowns to finish his career with 83 total scores -- the most of any player in the history of major college football. Those efforts earned him the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back and a second-consecutive nod as the Ameche-Dayne Big Ten Running Back of the Year.
He also became the first Badger to twice be named a consensus first-team All-American and, for his part in UW's rout of Nebraska in the 2012 Big Ten Football Championship Game, earned the Grange-Griffin MVP trophy.
Ball's push to eclipse Travis Prentice's NCAA record of 78 career touchdowns picked up steam as the season went along and culminated in back-to-back thrillers for the Badgers.
He tied Prentice's mark with a 7-yard rushing score in the second quarter of UW's slugfest with Ohio State on Nov. 17 and looked to have it topped when he leaped over a pile at the goal line late in the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes' Ryan Shazier had different ideas, however, and punched the ball loose as Ball stretched in midair for the goal line.
The Badgers lost the fumble but got the ball back and managed force overtime on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Curt Phillips to Jacob Pedersen with 8 seconds remaining in regulation. The extra session went the unbeaten Buckeyes' way and sent UW into its regular-season finale at Penn State on the short end of a 21-14 decision.
An eerily similar script played out in Happy Valley, with the Badgers again absorbing a tough-to-swallow overtime defeat -- their third of the season.
But not before Ball made history.
Midway through the first quarter, Ball took a toss from Phillips in the backfield and sprinted to his right toward the sideline.
With OL Kyle Costigan and Rob Havenstein pulling to their right to plow the road, Ball had room to run, but it was a key double block by FB Derek Watt that got him to the goal line. Watt up-ended one pursuer at the 13 yard line and then, sliding toward the 10, tripped up another that had an angle on Ball.
When WR Jeff Duckworth sealed another block at the goal line, it was simply a matter of Ball beating three Nittany Lions defensive backs to the pylon. He did, breaking the NCAA record fittingly by going untouched on his way to the end zone for the 79th score of his career.
Ball added another three TDs in the Big Ten championship game and then became the first player to score a touchdown in three Rose Bowl games when he hit paydirt against Stanford in Pasadena.