Heisman Worthy Pick Me Up

With senior tailback and Heisman finalist Montee Ball on the sideline, the Wisconsin running attack didn't miss a beat thanks to Melvin Gordon and James White, as the duo rushed for 177 of UW's 213 yards in Wisconsin's 37-26 victory Saturday.

MADISON - It appeared to be another audacious task for Wisconsin's troubled offense. Averaging 16.3 points per game through its first three games (it's lowest output since Don Morton roamed the sideline in 1989), the Badgers were forced to make do with their Heisman finalist for almost three quarters.

Not a problem.

Will Ball knocked out of the game early in the second half, freshman tailback Melvin Gordon and junior James White picked up the slack, rushing for a combined 177 yards and three scores in Wisconsin's 37-26 victory.

"Happy to see James and Melvin respond positively as they did," UW coach Bret Bielema said. "Nobody on the team was looking around everyone on the team knew they could handle the workload."

Not only did Ball have to leave the game due to a head injury, Ball fumbled the football for the first time in his career on the Badgers' opening drive in the first quarter. Ball went 711 touches without losing a fumble in his impressive four-year career.

Ball finished the game with nine carries for 40 yards with a long of 22 yards.

"We hope he's not hurt," UTEP head coach Mike Price said. "He's a true All-American. We knocked him around pretty good."

Even though Ball had to sit out the rest of the game, he became an extra running backs coach for White and Gordon.

"I was asking him how my steps were and I told him to be my extra eyes out there because he might see something that I don't and he was just helping me out with that," Gordon said.

"He stayed locked in to the game and he seemed all right I think he's going to be fine," White added about Ball. "I know he's ready to get going for next week."

The injury was ironic, considering Bielema was already planning to limit Ball's workload before heading into conference play next weekend. Through three games last season, Ball carried the ball 48 times for 272 yards and seven touchdowns. This year, Ball's carries had almost doubled (84) but the senior has only rushed for 320 yards and two scores.

"Montee has gotten a lot of reps in the first three games to go in the Big Ten season, we didn't think he would be able to do it for the entire season," Bielema said. "But you watch (Gordon) and (White) in practice, they are very, very good players and to spread the wealth, get it around a little bit, it will help Montee in the long run to know those guys can come off the bench and do good things."

Barely utilized through the first three games, White became the Badgers' lead back, finishing with 15 carries for 65 yards and two touchdowns. It was White's first touchdown in the Badgers past seven games.

"With Montee going down I knew I had to step up and help lead the team," White said. "It put more weight on my back but I knew I just had to do the same thing that I normally would. It was a good feeling to get out there and score touchdowns because they are hard to come by so when ever you get in there it's a great feeling."

Finishing with his first career 100-yard game, Gordon was able to show how explosive he is and the ability that he could possibly make the big play. Carrying the football eight times for 112 yards and a touchdown, Gordon nearly equaled his career rushing total of 116 yards.

"It was a great performance he took advantage of his opportunities and I felt like he did a great job today," White said of Gordon. "He's going to be able to help this team not only this season but also down the road."

Gordon saw most of his action lined up at wide receiver and then moving in motion. Trying to get Gordon in space so they could exploit a Miners' run defense ranked 106th in the country, it was an effective play for the offense, as Gordon lined up in the backfield five times in the game.

"It's a good play," Gordon said. "It opens things up for other players and it's giving me the opportunity to help the team. But when I get the ball I just have to something with it."

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