Courtesy of MCT
The Wisconsin Badgers have a chance Saturday to hand Ohio State football its first defeat of the season, but a win isn’t the only thing senior running back Montee Ball will be chasing this weekend.
Ball has 77 career rushing and receiving touchdowns, one shy of the NCAA record for most touchdowns scored, set by Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio) from 1996-1999 . Ball will have a chance to tie and break that record when the Badgers host the Buckeyes at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.
“It’s just going to be extra special for me to do it at home if it happens,” Ball said. “It’s kind of the ideal picture for anybody to break a record like that on your home turf, in front of your fans.”
Ball recognizes, however, that the Buckeyes won’t make it easy for him.
“I’m definitely expecting for Ohio State to stop me, because no one wants that record put up against them,” Ball said.
OSU senior linebacker Zach Boren said the defense will have to play a “perfect game” to stop Ball’s record-breaking pursuit.
“If we’re not, he’ll be able to make big plays and make long runs,” Boren said. “We respect how good of a player he is but … we’re not going to treat him or this game like it’s anything different than what we’re normally doing.”
For the Buckeyes’ defense, however, stopping Ball is not just about delaying his chance at history: it’s about getting to 11-0.
“Their strength is their run game and their power game, and that’s what they do best,” said senior defensive end John Simon. “Their quarterback’s still a very good quarterback … he’s definitely a threat to us too, but if we can stop that run, that’ll be big for us.”
That quarterback is Curt Phillips is a redshirt senior for the Badgers but started the first game of his career last Saturday against Indiana. Phillips only threw seven passes in that game, completing four for 41 yards and a touchdown . The rushing offense, however, gained 564 yards – the most by any team in the nation this season in a single game. Ball led the way with 198 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries.
“The way I’m looking at it is we’re facing a team that’s playing their best football,” said OSU coach Urban Meyer. “They just ran for 500-something yards against a team that gave us a hard time.”
The Buckeyes ran for a season-high 353 yards against Indiana on Oct. 13, and won the game 52-49 , but the Badgers’ rushing performance led them to a 62-14 victory against the Hoosiers in their last game .
Ball said he and his fellow running backs go into every game with the mentality that they need to lead the Badgers to victory.
“If we don’t establish the run game, if the run game’s not going well, it’s kind of hard to win a football game,” Ball said.
It hasn’t been all about the rushing offense for the 7-3 Badgers this season , however. The Badgers rank in the top 15 nationally in both total defense and scoring defense .
Meyer said Wisconsin’s defense is one of the best they’ll face this season.
“They have big guys up front. They’re strong. They play hard. They’re well-coached in fundamental football,” said offensive line coach Ed Warinner. “Those big guys try to chew up the gaps, I think their linebackers are really good, and so by having big people chewing up the gaps inside, they’re trying to protect their linebackers and let them make plays.”
Much of Saturday’s focus will likely be on Ball, however, as he is on the verge of potentially breaking a record. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said NFL scouts have also been focusing on Ball, who has 1,226 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns this season.
“I’ve had several (NFL scouts) comment to me this year they thought he’s the first back to go in this year’s draft,” Bielema said during his Monday press conference. “Many make the statement without a doubt.”
Meyer also believes Ball will be playing on Sundays next season.
“His strengths are great vision, and he’s … really a fast player,” Meyer said. “He pulls away from his angles, and his toughness, you can give him the ball a bunch of times, and he just keeps getting stronger. He’ll be a very good NFL back.”
Grant Gannon contributed to this story.