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November 13, 2010MADISON - It was national news this week that John Clay would sit out Saturday against Indiana with a sprained knee.
But those stories forgot to mention one thing: it didn't matter.
With the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year watching from the sideline, Wisconsin rushed for 338 yards against Indiana, picking up an average of 7.2 yards on 47 attempts. The Badgers added six touchdowns, one shy of the school record.
"That just speaks to the talent that we have at running back," John Moffitt said. "It's great to have those guys."
Moffitt and the rest of the offensive line opened up gaping holes in the Indiana defense, allowing Montee Ball and James White to put up huge numbers on the day.
On 22 carries - 20 of which came before halftime - Ball rushed for a career-high 167 yards and three touchdowns. Taking on much of the load in the second half, White carried the ball 19 times, picking up 144 yards and two touchdowns.
Not only did Ball pick up 167 yards, he never once lost yardage on the day. Afterward, he credited his success to the impressive play up front.
"I worked hard in practice and I'm glad to see that I carried it over to the game," Ball said. "Those holes were huge, anybody could've ran through them. So I give credit to them for working hard up there.
Ball made his first career start Saturday against the Hoosiers, and for the second straight year, he put up big numbers against Indiana. Last year in Bloomington, Ball rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in Wisconsin's 31-28 victory over Indiana.
Three touchdowns for Ball on the day also marked a career high, while his 167 rushing yards was a season high for a Wisconsin running back. Ball also marked his best rushing performance at home by more than 100 yards, with his previous best being an 11-carry, 64-yard day in the Badgers' rout of Austin Peay.
"Today was his first start of the year, that's what's amazing," said head coach Bret Bielema. "I really do think Montee understands the schemes.
"He chose us because of the way we play and obviously it's working very well for him."
After missing the Purdue game last week with a knee injury, White returned in his usual role as the Badgers' No. 2 back and put together an impressive performance.
While it took him a few carries to get back to his usual self, White eventually looked as good as he has all season. In the fourth quarter, White rushed for 44 yards on his final play of the game before sitting out the final two minutes.
The Badgers' third touchdown drive of the game, which followed a missed field goal by Indiana, epitomized the performance Saturday by the Wisconsin rushing attack.
On first down, Ball ripped off a 36-yard run down to the Indiana 30-yard line. As Ball took himself out, White stepped in and took the next play 30 yards for the score. A two-play, 66-yard drive, the Badgers needed just 50 seconds to score the game-changing touchdown.
"I don't know if Montee would have went right back and had that same burst," Bielema said. "That's the part that [running backs coach John Settle] has done a nice job ingraining in the running backs. You need to be fresh to go, and obviously they're doing that."