Oct. 20, 2012
BY ANNA POULTER-HENDRICKSON
UW Athletic Communications
MADISON, Wis. -- Using a strong ground game that included 337 rushing yards, five touchdowns and 19 first downs, the Wisconsin football team claimed a dominant 38-13 win over Minnesota Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium.
It was a performance that UW head coach Bret Bielema knows is about more than just running backs.
“The reason Montee (Ball) and James (White) are having success, they're doing a lot of great things individually, but the people in front of them are playing well,” Bielema said.
The Badgers claimed their ninth-straight victory over the Gophers, matching longest winning streak by either team in the most-played rivalry in the FBS.
The win also marked Wisconsin’s 21st-consecutive home win, the second-longest active streak in the country (tailing only LSU at 22). The Badgers have also won 12 consecutive games against Big Ten opponents.
White running efficiently and effectively
Junior RB James White had the second-best rushing output of his career, running for 175 yards on 15 carries. He went over the 100-yard rushing mark for the second-straight game and the seventh time in his career.
It was a performance that White enjoyed.
“It was a lot of fun,” White said. “Our offensive line, tight ends and receivers really did a great job of opening up the holes. We were just making our reads and trying to score.”
White ran for an average of 11.7 yards per carry against Minnesota, moving him to 6.1 yards per carry for his career, well ahead of Ron Dayne’s UW career record of 5.8 yards per attempt.
With three touchdowns, it was White’s eighth career multiple-TD game, giving him 27 career touchdowns.
Ball blows by the Gophers
With a pair of touchdowns and 166 yards rushing, senior RB Montee Ball went over the 100-yard mark for the third-straight game and the fifth time this season. The performance moves him into third in the UW record books with 21 career 100-yard rushing games.
Ball now has 74 career touchdowns, trailing only Ricky Williams of Texas (75) and Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio) (78) on the all-time NCAA list.
The win over Minnesota and keeping the Axe was something Ball was focused on.
“It’s just the tradition behind it; it’s something you want to be a part of,” Ball said. “It’s an overwhelming experience, and something I’ll never forget. I wanted to make sure I was going to run around with my teammates and enjoy the moment.”
It was the second-straight game and fifth time in the last three years that both Ball and White have rushed for at least 100 yards in the same game. A feat that trails just Terrell Fletcher and Brent Moss’ seven dual 100-yard rushing performances in 1993-1994.
Ball sees White’s performance as a motivator for his own.
“When (White) starts playing really, really well, it kind of sets a fire into me,” Ball remarked. “I told him I had better get going, and vice-versa, which is the healthy competition that we have.
“It betters the offense. The offensive line is clicking, fullbacks and receivers are clicking. It’s a great feeling right now.”
Junior WR Jared Abbrederis sees the importance of the running back duo in Wisconsin’s offense.
“It means everything,” Abbrederis commented on Ball and White’s performance. “I think it wears down the defenses a lot. So it’s great to see both of them running hard and running really well.”
Picking off passes
After not recording an interception through the first five games, Wisconsin came up with two big picks against the Gophers and has now intercepted four passes in the last three games.
Senior CB Devin Smith intercepted his second pass of the season and fifth of his career, picking off a third-quarter pass, while junior LB Ethan Armstrong recorded his first career interception, picking off a fourth-quarter attempt.
Forcing turnovers is something the Badgers have been focusing on.
“Obviously we’ve made an emphasis on it in practice,” Armstrong said. “We’ve been practicing it and putting a big priority on getting those turnovers.”