Oct. 20, 2012
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis. -- It was not his most artistic run, nor was it his longest run, but it might have been one of Montee Ball’s most timely and clutch runs of the season.
Minnesota had just grabbed back some of the momentum after scoring on a long drive and then throwing the ball for a 1-yard loss on the final play of the third quarter. The score was still manageable for the Gophers, at 24-13.
On third-and-11, Ball made the first down virtually on his own dancing around defensive end D.L. Wilhite and safety Derrick Wells. It’s that type of run that separates Ball from some of the other tailbacks in the country. The team needed a play and he made the play.
And so did his teammates for the majority of the second half of Saturday's 38-13 win over the Golden Gophers.
Despite squandering good field position in the first half, Wisconsin started to wear down the Minnesota defense in the third quarter. The running game is always the key in this program, and it was no different Saturday. The offensive line starting to control the line of scrimmage created big creases for James White and Ball, and they were able to take advantage of it.
There’s still that threat, though, of the throw, which forces the safeties to at least think about Jared Abbrederis every snap. It’s a nice balance the Badgers have gotten down. They didn’t have to throw a lot Saturday, because the defense allowed them to do some other things.
As this season wears on, we’ve seen that steady improvement, especially up front. There’s no question now that everyone’s on the same page.
The best way to describe the Badgers’ defense is resilient. They might give up a couple of big plays, or a score, but they always find a way to make plays. The turnovers are starting to come, too. Devin Smith and Ethan Armstrong with picks in the second half.
It was a bit of an unknown today, with a true freshman quarterback in Philip Nelson, who showed some toughness, but Minnesota also probably had to limit its game plan because of his unfamiliarity with it. He had been the No. 3 quarterback.
It didn't make any difference to Wisconsin, though. They made stops when they needed to, got the ball back to the offense and, in the second half, the Badgers took advantage and were more opportunistic, as far as field position.
I don’t think anyone grows tired of trophy games, especially this one. Just talk to any of those players Saturday, who were posing for pictures in the locker room afterwards with either teammates, former high school teammates, family or friends.
This game is special, and Minnesota played with that type of intensity for most of the game. The Gophers brought their A-game here today, despite not having a lot of experience at the quarterback position.
While this may be a trophy game, next week is really a rivalry game with Michigan State coming to Camp Randall.
The Badgers’ intensity level will be amped up that much more.