Junior James White is averaging 25.8 per game, having carried the ball only 31 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Melvin Gordon has been involved in the offense even less, carrying the ball 12 times for 135 yards and one score.
Remove the production the two had against UTEP when Ball was out for a concussion and Gordon and White have combined for only 19 carries for 87 yards and no scores. In Wisconsin's 30-27 loss at Nebraska last Saturday, White had as many pass attempts as rushes (one) while Gordon had two unproductive carries.
"I think (running back coach) Thomas (Hammock) and I had a good discussion," said Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema Thursday about getting the tailbacks more involved. "The last game, we just didn't have a lot of extended drives throughout the second half."
Wisconsin has seven drives in the second half that went as long as 39 yards and as short as zero. In all, the Badgers' second-half series averaged only 15.4 yards per drive and one touchdown, which Wisconsin scored following a Taylor Martinez fumble at the 13-yard line.
Bielema says Hammock has ‘a good plan' on how to work Gordon and White back into the rotation this week when Wisconsin hosts Illinois.
"The ratio that I came up with before we even played a game was 25-15-10," said Bielema. "We wanted Montee to have it 25 times, whether that's 25 carries or 20 carries and five catches. I'd like to see James White touch the ball 15 times and Melvin 10. Then the other plays distributed between Abby (Jared Abbrederis) and Ped (Jacob Pedersen).
"That's been out there for a little bit. We haven't come close to hitting that yet."
From the Infirmary
Junior defensive end Pat Muldoon (hand) has practice all week with a club on his hand and senior defensive end Brendan Kelly (hamstring) practiced Wednesday and Thursday. Both are expected to play Saturday.
Senior Shelton Johnson (broken arm) returned to the practice field Tuesday after getting cleared and had his cast significantly trimmed. Bielema expects sophomore Michael Trotter to start his third straight game, but does think Johnson will be available if needed.
"He is a senior," Bielema said of Johnson. "He is a captain. He is a leader. He is a guy who has (made) all the calls the last two years in the back end. A guy that we've missed in a lot of different ways."
The only significant setback comes at the offensive line position, as Bielema is doubtful Wisconsin will get redshirt sophomore Kyle Costigan on Saturday. Suffering a right-knee injury in the first quarter of loss at Nebraska Saturday, Costigan finished the game but has not been able to practice all week.
On the play of his defense
"We've been really unfortunate on that side of the ball with injuries. We lost two of top four DBs. It's a little bit of guys stepping into new roles and taking on opportunities. One thing that became very apparent to me after our four nonconference games was we need to keep the ball in front of us. We have enough playmakers up front, we have so much speed at linebacker (that) they are going to run down some plays. If you give up a third down, you give up a third down. Don't give up a big play. Live to play another day, and I think our guys have seen the rewards of that.
"the series that was frustrating on Saturday, more than any one, was the third down pass, the (helmet-to-helmet) penalty on top of it and the QB draw after that. That's when they were on their heels a little bit. Everything else they made (Nebraska) earn it all the way down."