In the warmest home game in school history, the Wisconsin Badgers offense was about as red hot as their school’s primary color. When you think Wisconsin college football you probably think tailbacks and big men. The best in the nation come here to play offensive line and run behind all that open space that they create.
As they showed with their 51-17 destruction of the UNLV Rebels Thursday night, this year’s Badgers are no different.
Tailbacks Montee Ball and James White are on the Doak Walker Award watch list (honoring the nation’s best running back) one of just three sets of teammates to makes the list. Both rushed for over 900 yards last season.
White an Ball had almost identical numbers, ending up just one yard apart and one carry apart. They also benefited from safety valve/check down passes out of the backfield, as QB Russell Wilson found both of them on screen passes that blew up for big gains.
Last night Ball accounted for 130 all-purpose yards (63 rushing and 67 receiving) while his backfield mate White had 166 all-purpose yards (64 rushing, 40 receiving and 62 on kickoff returns). Ball had four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) and has scored 19 TDs in his last seven games. He has scored at least three TDs in four of his last five games. His four TDs last night were the most by a Badger in a season opener since Brian Calhoun had five vs. Bowling Green in 2005.
With White and Ball it isn’t really a matter of first string and second string. More like 1a and 1b
“I said we could bring them both in and I will literally flip a coin. As things kind of worked out, it looked like Montee (Ball) didn’t really do anything big but we just felt better with him out of the gate. James (White) continued to also do some really good things. I think they are both very even, both have strengths over the other, but it is really nice to have the both of them,” said Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema.
Wilson is the new toy for the Badger offense. In his first career start at UW, the NC State transfer completed 10-of-13 passes for 255 yards and two TDs. He also ran for 62 yards and a score, accounting for 317 yards of total offense, the highest total for a Wisconsin QB in his starting debut (stats since 1951). His pass efficiency rating of 210.9 and 76.9 completion percentage are also the best for a Wisconsin QB who threw at least 10 passes in his starting debut.
His fleet feet will make him another weapon in the ground attack, sort of/ kind of replacing John Clay to a limited extent in the three-headed rushing attack.
Even though they lost Gabe Carimi (now with Chicago Bears) and John Moffitt on the left side, the Badgers breed offensive linemen like the Wayans family breeds comedians. They’re a NFL OL factory in Madison. And the next batch includes OT Ricky Wagner, G Kevin Zeitler, and C Peter Konz. The big boys provided plenty of running lanes and space.
Konz talked about the offense looking like they were in midseason form already.
“It was a little surprising. Normally at the beginning of the season, there’s things you have to work out with the team, but today it felt like it was clicking on all cylinders. So, hopefully we can improve on that,” Konz said.
Could this offense be even more explosive than last season? They did score 70+ on three occasions in 2010.
“It’s definitely possible. We lost some great players on offense. But what we have returning — and what we gained in Russell — the guys who returned from last year are definitely better than they were a year ago. So the sky’s the limit for this offense,” said OL Josh Oglesby.
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