With injuries and inconsistency plaguing the running back position for Wisconsin the past two years, the Badgers have used Ball numerous times as a fill-in.
Wisconsin needed Ball once again Saturday … just in a different role.
With John Clay and James White nursing injuries, Ball got his first collegiate start and didn't disappoint, racking up a career-high 167 yards and three touchdowns to help the Badgers rout Indiana 83-20 at Camp Randall Stadium.
"It feels great, we all came together as a team and showed everybody what we could do," said Ball. "It's great to finally put these numbers up at home."
Clay, who ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing average, missed the game with a knee sprain he suffered in last week's win over Purdue. White returned after sitting out a week ago with a sprained knee he sustained Oct. 23 at Iowa. He carried 19 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns, the third time this season UW has posted a pair of 100-yard rushers.
The Badgers used Ball exclusively on their opening possession. Ball carried the ball five times for 50 yards, including a 23-yard burst on his first carry and a 1-yard score to cap the drive. He added another 1-yard plunge and an 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Ball finished the opening 30 minutes with 20 carries for 145 yards and three touchdowns.
Ball became Wisconsin's No. 2 tailback midway through last year after Zach Brown, who redshirted this season, struggled with fumbles and injuries. His big break came in the Badgers' 31-28 win over the Hoosiers, when piled up 115 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Clay, who left the game with a concussion.
Ball fell behind White on the depth chart this season, and he registered only five carries in Wisconsin's first three conference games. An injury to White against Iowa pressed Ball into duty, and he responded with the game-winning score in the final minute to give the Badgers an impressive road victory over the Hawkeyes. Ball became Wisconsin's primary back after Clay went down last week, and he rushed for 127 yards and a pair of scores in the his team's 34-13 victory over Purdue.
"It's a great feeling to carry forward what I've done the past two games," Ball said. "I feel like I am in a rhythm."
Toon Finally Sees the End Zone
It's been a while for Nick Toon.
While Wisconsin's junior wide receiver had hauled in 34 passes his past eight games, not one resulted in a touchdown.
That changed Saturday, when Toon joined a host of other Badgers in finding the end zone. Toon caught a 4-yard pass from senior quarterback Scott Tolzien with 21 seconds left in the second quarter to give him his first score of the season. He finished with three catches for 26 yards.
"That's something I've expected to be doing all year," Toon said. "Obviously, I've had a little bit of trouble at the beginning of the season with injuries. That's just the way it went this year and hopefully, I'll continue to (score)." His last touchdown came Nov. 14, 2009, against Michigan. Toon caught five passes for a career-best 123 yards a year ago against Indiana.
Backup QBs Have Some Fun
Ahh, the human victory cigar.
Seeing as they see game action so rarely (or never in the case of Tice), however, neither Budmayr nor Tice was content in simply handing off. If they were out there, they were playing to win.
Budmayr made his presence felt first, launching a 74-yard touchdown to wide receiver Jared Abbrederis on a third down in the fourth quarter.
Tice came next on Wisconsin's final drive, taking a naked boot leg left and scoring from 17-yards out.
"When Coach Chryst called a naked, it brought a variety of different laughter on the head set to put it mildly," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "He is probably a 5.5 40 [yard dash] at best."
From the Infirmary
Wisconsin got through the Indiana victory without any major injuries, the only coming on a leg bruise to Gabe Carimi, and expects to get even stronger next week when it travels to Michigan.
After being held out, John Clay is on the verge of being ready early next week, as Bielema cited the next 24-48 hours will be important for him. Center Peter Konz missed the game with an ankle injury and the UW staff felt giving him a week off would strengthen him for the stretch run.
The only bad news came from practice Tuesday, as redshirt sophomore Curt Phillips re-tore his ACL in his right knee and will have surgery shortly.
"He wanted to be the guy signaling in plays today," Bielema said. "A good example of another guy that will do whatever we can to help us.
Extra points: Junior tight end Jake Byrne hauled in a 2-yard pass from Tolzien early in the third quarter for his first career touchdown … Bucky Badger, who does push-ups after each Badgers score, pumped out 573 … Philip Welch scored 17 points (11 PATs, two field goals) to move into third place on UW's career scoring list …With 147 all-purpose yards, David Girleath has 4.974 all-purpose yards for his career, passing Anthony Davis (4,874) for third in UW history.
Benjamin Worgull and Michael Bleach contributed to this report