Back on the Bike

After an offseason filled with off-the-field distractions, senior tailback Montee Ball finally got back to what he does best: running the football.

MADISON- ‘Very frustrated' were the words Montee Ball would use to describe his game in No.12 Wisconsin's 26-21 victory over Northern Iowa. Despite accounting for 151 yards of total offense, Ball lamented because opportunities for long runs were always swiped away by the hands of a defender going for his legs.

"I got off to a really slow start and I can't wait to attack the film," Ball said. "I'm use to having big holes to run through but (Northern Iowa) did a good job of sweeping my feet. I'll have to do a better job of keeping my feet up on my runs. I'm hoping I can make a huge jump from week one to week two and just getting better as a tailback."

Despite Ball being frustrated with how he played, center Travis Frederick didn't see Ball getting frustrated on the field.

"I think, as far as up front, we didn't play as well as we needed to open things up for him," Frederick said. "I don't know what his stats were but from my perspective he was playing well. I didn't notice any frustration out of him. I don't think there was a lot of frustration out of anybody."

Ball finished with 32 carries for 120 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and one touchdown. Ball also caught three passes for 31 yards. The Badgers' coaching staff was hoping they wouldn't have to give Ball 32 carries in the opener, but the Heisman finalist was happy he could help his team after what was a long, challenging offseason.

"I just embraced it," Ball said. "Plans are always broken and I'm sure the plan for any team in the nation is to not give the starting running back in the first game that many carries, but it happened and I'm happy I could help the team get a victory."

Because of the concussion sustained in a campus attack prior to the start of fall camp, Ball didn't start taking hits until the Sunday of game week. Even though he hadn't been truly hit since the Rose Bowl, it didn't take Ball long to get back into football mode.

"Yeah, I was a little nervous but that went away after that first snap," Ball said. "After the first hit I got use to it because it's like riding a bike."

With Northern Iowa crowding the box to not let Wisconsin's running game find traction, Ball had to work for every one of his yards. While frustrated, Ball kept getting an earful from running backs coach Thomas Hammock to keep playing.

"It was difficult to get five yards on each play," Ball said. "They did a great job of containing us and cutting our blockers it created a challenge for us. Coach Hammock kept on telling me to stay patient and get your three and four yards. Just keep chipping away at the iceberg and eventually I'll break one."

Like Frederick, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema was happy with how his senior tailback performed in the season opener.

"I thought that was vintage Montee," he said. "He was engaged, he was eager. I saw him in pregame warm-ups and he slapped me as hard as I want to be slapped. So I thought, ‘Okay, I think 28 is ready to roll.'

"It's hard to shake your head at 120 yards. Overall I thought that was a pretty good effort."

Although Ball wasn't completely happy with his performance, he was happy he could get back on the football field and put behind a controversy filled off-season behind him.

"It felt great to get back there on the field today and play with the best teammates in the world," Ball said.

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