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October 2, 2011

The 'Ball' keeps rolling

MADISON - As Montee Ball was sprinting toward his fourth touchdown run of the game, he suddenly saw something out of the corner of his eye.

It's fair to say the flash of Russell Wilson storming out past Ball as his lead blocker startled the junior tailback.

"I was like, 'Wow, this guy is fast," Ball, who was able to score from 15 yards out with Wilson as his lead blocker, said. "He's a playmaker."

And so is Montee Ball.

The junior tailback was absolutely incredible against Nebraska and it's much talked about 'Blackshirt' defense. He carried the ball 30 times, averaged five yards per carry and scored four more touchdowns.

Here's some perspective.

Since entering the game against Iowa a season ago, Ball has scored 29 touchdowns. You heard that right. Throughout the past 11 games of play, Ball, a player that was completely out of the mix prior to that game in Iowa City, has scored 29 touchdowns.

Isn't that unbelievable?

"He just smells that end zone and he cannot be denied," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "His last three scores were unbelievable."

That they were, coach. That they were.

Ball, who has seemingly separated himself from James White with his level of consistency, made what looks like an ordinary three-yard touchdown run in the box score extraordinary.

He broke tackles, but that's nothing new.

He exerted his will on a handful of Nebraska defenders, but again, that's vintage Montee Ball.

Then he started to spin out of tackles while shrugging Nebraska defenders off his back, that was new. And it was incredible.

When it was all said and done it seemed as though Ball shrugged three or four opponents before walking in calmly from three yards out. There's no way he does that a season ago.

"I just didn't want to let my players down," Ball said. "They've worked extremely hard, just as hard as I do. Everything is about counting on 'me' around here. I just kept telling them that they can count on me."

Ball has rushed for 511 yards on 93 carries through five games this season. You can add up the rest of Wisconsin's rushing touchdowns, from James White, Russell Wilson, Jeffrey Lewis and Melvin Gordon, and together they'd fall six shy of Ball's 13 scores.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound junior has scored at least two touchowns in every game this season. And the fact he opened Big Ten play against one of the better defenses on paper, it's more than obvious that he's playing great, fundamentally sound football.

But when asked, Ball wasn't even close to admitting his best game is behind him.

"Not at all," Ball said. "That's what coach Paul Chryst made sure to tell us all in the locker room after the game. He told us to not put a cap on what we did today.

"Always stay hungry because the sky is the limit for this offense."

Quotable:

Bret Bielema on whether there is any separation between Ball and White:

"I think in this type of game and this physical of a game I think Montee was pretty gassed up to play in this game. I could tell all week he was very excited. He popped a guy this week in practice and I said to the guy next to me, 'Yeah, I think Montee is going to be ready.' James did some nice stuff too, but you just kind of go with the hot hand."



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