When it rains it pours and last week against UNLV the Badgers experienced that first hand with the terrible weather at Camp Randall and awful play from the team. The Running Rebels embarrassed the Badgers 23-5 and the team lost its vital running back, Anthony Davis, to an injured ankle within the opening minutes of the game.
With the question of when Davis will return up in the air, the Badgers are searching for a spark in their offense. Luckily for them, they have two promising running backs that are ready to step into the spotlight.
Smith, a 5-11, 225-pound sophomore from Chicago, already had considerable playing time last season with 552 yards and six touchdowns. Last year against Illinois, Smith had to fill in for an absent Davis and tallied 28 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns. This performance earned him the title of UW offensive player of the week.
As for Stanley, a 5-10, 207-pound freshman from Milwaukee, he redshirted his first year and made his first appearance on the field when he rushed for 11 yards against Akron. During his senior year at Whitefish Bay High School he rushed for more than 2,000 yards, averaged 8.3 yards per carry, and had perfection in his hands with no fumbles.
The talented pair has adjusted well to the burden of filling in for Davis.
"I'm feeling no pressure at all," Smith said. "I have the confidence of my coaches and my teammates so I'm ready to go."
"I really don't feel any pressure; I think it's my chance to step up and help this team out," Stanley added.
There will be high expectations for Stanley and Smith after last week's failure to produce a touchdown and Smith's two costly fumbles.
"I expect to play a lot better than I did last week," Smith said, "I expect to play at the level that I know I can play and everyone else on this team knows I can play. It's just about being the best I can be."
"My expectations are only to go out, give my best and be able to help the team," Stanley said.
Offensive coordinator Brian White will need all the help he can get this weekend against North Carolina to avoid another dismal day on offense at Camp Randall. Working on the fundamentals, eliminating turnovers, and scoring when in the red zone are three things he has highlighted to improve for this week.
Even with the probable absence of Davis, White knows that his offense can improve, and he has confidence that Smith and Stanley will be tools that the team can use effectively.
"If Anthony isn't in there you obviously loose a tremendous playmaker and a guy that has played with consistency," White said, "But I think Smith and Stanley are more power runners, and finish runs a little bit better."
The many skills that they possess will help them in the weeks to come. The sudden loss of Davis, though, caught Smith, Stanley and the rest of the organization off guard. Within minutes these two players went from taking a back seat to sitting in the drivers seat of the offense. Whether they were prepared or not, the team was depending on them to produce.
"I did and I didn't feel prepared when Anthony went down," Stanley commented, "It caught me off guard, but I said to myself, ‘it's my time to get in there and help this team out.'"
As far as this weekend is concerned, Smith and Stanley are better prepared to make an impact on the game. Smith is confident that the team can pull together despite last week's performance and get a win.
"I feel as though we're going to bounce back a lot," Smith said, "Our defense picked it up this past weekend, and now it's our turn to pick it up. The coaches are coaching us up pretty well like they always have so we're going to be alright."