Next Men In Leads to 31-30 Win

Montee Ball stepped in after James White went down with an injury and led the team in receptions before scoring the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Badgers 31-30 win at Iowa Saturday.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema told his team before leaving for Iowa it would take all 70 players the NCAA allowed him to bring to take down the Hawkeyes.

Likely meant as a motivational idiom, Bielema was nearly literally right.

The Badgers suffered a dearth of injuries that would have felled most other teams in the country. Lance Kendricks went down in the first quarter on a kick-off return. James White was lost for the game after he injured his knee. Peter Konz never returned to the field after half. Nick Toon was never even given a chance to play, and Mike Taylor was playing on "half a leg" as Bielema said.

No matter, it is "next man in." And never have the words rung so victoriously, as UW pulled out a 31-30 win in Kinnick Stadium Saturday night.

Where to start on the list of heroes coming off the bench?

Even Bielema didn't know.

"I think you could give the game ball to any one of these guys," Bielema said.

"I know from the outside world looking in you are probably like jeez, 'this guy did this, this guy did this, Montee Ball did this, Bill Nagy did this.'

"It is what I see every day. I couldn't be prouder of a group of guys that handle themselves on a daily basis the way they do. A lot of love and respect for one another. That is the only way we know how to win."

For Ball, it could easily be a story of personal redemption, vindictive proof that he deserves to play. Instead, it is a story of unadulterated joy at chipping in to a winning team.

Replacing White after the freshman running back went down with a knee injury in the second quarter — "The knee is alright, its not doing too bad," White said after the game — Ball played like the freshman would flashed last season. He led the team in receptions with five and finished second in receiving yards with 41, including an uber-crucial fourth-and-four pickup of seven yards. With running backs normally serving in pass protection only for the UW offense, Ball became Tolzien's go-to guy down the stretch.

Oh yeah, and he also managed to punch in the game-winning touchdown with 1:06 left in the game from eight yards out.

Not a bad game for someone who started the day at No. 3 on the depth chart and didn't even see the field against Ohio State.

"Coach Settle just kept telling me, good job keeping your head up. You never know when your chance is going to come and you just have to keep your head up for when it does," Ball said.

"We always say next man in," Clay said. "When James went down Montee stepped in and filled his shoes. He kept a lot of drives alive and helped us win this game."

Starting the year at No. 2 on the depth chart, Ball slowly saw his playing time recede with the emergence of James White and Ball struggling on the field. With an attitude that is becoming increasingly common on this Wisconsin team, Ball took it all in stride, just looking for any way he could help out the team.

"I told coach B, anywhere you guys want to put me I plan on producing. I asked him about a week ago if he could put me on special teams. I just want to be on the field," Ball said.

"I am fully committed to this team no matter what, no matter where I am on the depth chart. I am here to stay."

The same story rings true for the man who ended up snapping the ball in the entire second half.

After starting the year in a battle for right guard with Kevin Zeitler, Nagy has seen the field as a run-blocking tight end since Big Ten play started.

Anything to be on the field.

With Konz unable to continue for the final two quarters with swelling in his ankle, Nagy took off the tight end jersey, flipped on the ol' 76 and lined up at center.

"Bill has kept his composure and I just really respect that he has done everything for this team that is asked of him and done it well," UW captain and Nagy's roommate John Moffitt said. "He played tight end … and is just driving people off the ball."

There were so many other contributions from role players and backups it is hard to keep track of them all.

Tight ends Jacob Pedersen and Jake Byrne chipped in four catches for 42 yards. Isaac Anderson had a three catch day, including a 30-yarder in place of Toon. Kevin Claxton picked up five tackles while rotating with the limping Taylor.

"These guys have earned the bye week and they are going to have a head coach who is very rewarding. They will get a lot of time off to themselves to get healed for us," Bielema said.

"It is fun to be around this group."


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