Carrying a Big Chip

Wisconsin junior running back John Clay has heard the rumors and he knows he didn't get the job done last year against Ohio State. With the top-ranked Buckeyes coming to town Saturday, Clay knows it's his chance to make amends.

MADISON - When it comes to measuring sticks, John Clay knows this weekend is as good as it gets.

"We're going to see what our team is made out of going against the No.1 team in the country," Clay said Tuesday. "Being able to showcase our offense is a good thing."

Saturday's match-up between No.1 Ohio State and No.18 Wisconsin is more than a Big Ten conference game with significant implications on the conference title race. It's a chance for Clay to quiet his doubters, a group, he feels, has gotten bigger as the weeks go on.

Talk about the wrong player having a chip on his shoulder.

Clay already felt a need to perform better against the Buckeyes after their defense held him to 59 yards and a 3.0 yards per carry average in last season's 31-13 Ohio State victory in Columbus. Now, the junior running back has claimed to hearing rumors that is not fully recovered from his off-season ankle surgeries.

"I want to go out there, prove to people what I am capable of doing and stop the people from talking," Clay said. ‘"(I've heard) I'm not the old me, I'm not the same anymore or they're saying I'm not producing like I did last year."

Through the team's first six games last year, Clay rushed for 641 yards, an average of 106.8 yards per game. This season, Clay leads the team with 699 rushing yards (116.5 per game), averaging 6.1 yards per carry and has found the end zone a team-best nine times.

He's gone over 100 yards in five of six games, only failing to hit the century mark against Michigan State after getting hit on the left ankle and feeling a shooting pain in his leg, making them tender. After a little rest, Clay says his legs are approaching 95 percent entering Ohio State weekend.

"They're doing good," Clay said. "I feel that I'm getting more comfortable. I feel like I'm able to cut better and that I'm getting back to 100 percent."

That extra rest has been allotted to him by the emerging success of true freshman James White. White has rushed for 361 yards and eight touchdowns over his last three games. Among rushes with at least 60 attempts, his 7.70 yards per carry is sixth-best in the country.

Combine the two backs, Clay and White have both rushed for at least 100 yards in two of the last three games, 1,177 combined yards and 17 touchdowns.

"We bring a lot of different things to the table – James with the outside ability to break away and me inside the tackle box being able to run down hill full speed, absorb the hits and deliver the blows," Clay said. I want to go out there and produce."

While he's buying into the one-day-at-a-time philosophy as the Badgers prepare for Saturday, Clay acknowledged that a win over Ohio State would be big for the program, signifying that Wisconsin can complete on a national stage.

When it comes to running game and with that thought in mind, don't expect Clay to relax until the final whistle has been blown.

"We take pride in not turning the ball over, so we're looking for to starting fast and trying to finish off four quarters," Clay said. "We can't come into the locker room saying, ‘If I would have did this or if I would have did that.' We've got to come out and lay it all on the line."

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