Following the Running Model

No Montee Ball, no problem for Wisconsin's running game, which picked up right where it left off last season by putting three running backs over 100 yards in the season-opening win over UMass Saturday.

MADISON - After hearing all about the record-breaking successes of Montee Ball the past two seasons, senior James White, sophomore Melvin Gordon and the rest of the Wisconsin running attack came out of the gates looking to show the group hadn't lost a step.

If it wasn't for them, the Badgers' 45-0 victory over Massachusetts in Saturday's season opener might have been a little too close for comfort.

Racking up 398 yards on the group and averaging 8.9 yards per carry, White and Gordon kept the Badgers moving in the first half, totaling 216 of UW's 257 first-half yards while the offense ironed out the rough edges.

"We try to wear the defense out and I feel like we got that accomplished," White said. "Those holes were pretty big in the third and fourth quarter and we got some explosive runs."

One of those explosive runs came at a critical juncture in the first half. With Wisconsin leading only 10-0 late in the second quarter, Gordon blew the game open when he found a running lane for a career-best 70-yard touchdown to give Wisconsin a little more wiggle room.

"Man, he hit that and it was blocked out well," said Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen. "You're going to have a hard time catching Melvin once he gets his shoulders squared. He's pretty fast."

Gordon and White split carries evenly in the game (13 and 11), racking up 144 and 143 yards, respectively. White has runs of 47 and 51, giving him 10 career runs of over 40 yards.

"Their running game has been honed over two decades," said UMass head coach Charlie Molnar. "Recruiting a certain profile, offensive lineman, running back, tight ends, you honestly, you could've been watching 1992 or 1988 Badgers with Coach (Barry) Alvarez with the same plays, just different guys doing the same things."

After the running game was dubbed the "three-headed monster" last season with three rushing performances over 450 yards, the Badgers simply picked up right where it left off, but kicked Ball out of the group for true freshman Corey Clement.

Entering the game near the end of the third quarter, Clement took his turn and racked up 101 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first player to rush for 100 yards in his debut since P.J. Hill in 2006. According to research done by UW Athletics, Clement is the first UW tailback to rush for over 100 yards in a season opener since the NCAA allowed freshman to play beginning in the 1972.

"I just let the game come to me," he said. "I wasn't in it for anything, just trying to do what I could do and better my teammates. Yards weren't really the factor or a touchdowns weren't really a factor. It was about providing a victory."

Not only did UW's three main tailbacks rush for a touchdown, but quarterback Joel Stave opened the scoring with a four-yard keeper on UW's first drive.

"We're going to go out there and play the way that we've been playing ever since we were little," said White. "Me, Melvin, Corey, we know what we're capable of when we get the ball in our hands we're going to try to make a play for the team."

Anderson said he liked what he saw from all three backs and plans to use each one equally moving forward, specifically Gordon and White.

"They have no agendas, they're not sitting there saying ‘I want the ball," Anderson said. "We're very lucky at that position to have three young men that are good football players."

The big day on the ground came despite the offensive line being shuffled around. Running lanes were not a problem for any of the backs.

"We have confidence in them," White said. "Those guys have worked hard every day at practice. I feel they'll find a consistent five once we start the Big Ten season, but those guys are going to go out there and compete and work their tails off. I'm proud of the way they went out there and worked today."

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