By TOM LEA
MADISON – In an ideal world the No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers would have blown out Northern Iowa, a highly ranked FCS team.
That way, Montee Ball would have gotten the carries needed to get acclimated to the rigors of taking hits and being tackled, James White would have built some confidence and freshman Melvin Gordon, one of the more highly regarded youngsters on the roster, would have been able ease into his role as UW’s No. 3 tailback.
But that’s not how it went.
Instead, Ball, a Heisman candidate, touched the ball 35 times (32 carries, three receptions) and a somewhat underwhelming 3.8 yards per carry.
It was evident the Panthers wanted to slow the vaunted run game the Badgers possess, forcing UW to alter the plans just a bit.
“What the coaches did was a great thing,” Ball said. “They put the ball in someone’s hands who doesn’t fumble the football and will get positive yards. I think they did a great job with that.
“I’m sure it wasn’t the plan for me to get 32-35 carries, but I’m capable of taking it.”
Ball, who either missed or was extremely limited during the first two weeks of fall camp, was never tackled throughout the month of August. In fact, he hadn’t been tackled since UW lost to Oregon in the Rose Bowl, more than 240 days prior.
Saturday’s game against Northern Iowa, one Ball said he was rusty in, was the starting point. And he said he came out of it without any sort of issue.
“I felt fine,” Ball said. “I was flying around today in practice. I made sure on Sunday to take care of my body, really get into the weight room and work on what I needed to work on and really just getting my muscles back for this workload we have right now in practice.”
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