2 TDs away: Ball hopes to make mark at home
Montee Ball is in charge of the entertainment for Wisconsin’s senior day.
Needing just two touchdowns to become the all-time leader in major college football, the Badgers running back would like nothing more than to get the record Saturday when Wisconsin (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten) hosts unbeaten Ohio State in Ball’s final game at Camp Randall Stadium.
SDLqIt’s going to be extra special to do it at home — if it happens,” he said. “It’d be ideal to break a record like that on home turf, in front of our fans.”
Ball has 77 career touchdowns after running for three scores against Indiana last weekend. That’s two more than 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams, and one less than current FBS record holder Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio).
“It’s pretty exciting. We take pride in that and having him be able to have the opportunity to break the record,” receiver Jared Abbrederis said. “It’s been awesome watching him.”
Making Ball’s run all the more impressive is that he didn’t even become a starter — heck, a regular contributor — until midway through his sophomore season. Still, the career record seemed like a given after last year, when he scored 39 touchdowns to match Barry Sanders’ long-standing single-season mark. The Heisman finalist would need only 18 TDs to pass Prentice, and he’d averaged almost three in his previous 20 games.
Then Ball was attacked by several men as he walked home Aug. 1 after a night out with friends. He was knocked to the ground and kicked in the head and chest, leaving him unconscious and with a concussion. The injuries sidelined him during training camp, and Ball — and the Badgers — continued to feel the effects as their season got off to a rocky start.
Ball was held scoreless in Wisconsin’s loss at Oregon State, the first time he’d failed to score since Oct. 16, 2010, when he sat out the Badgers’ upset of the then-No. 1 Buckeyes. After four games, he had just four touchdowns and had only topped 100 yards rushing twice.
“I stumbled a little bit out of gate, the first couple games of the season,” Ball said. “That goes back to not being able to practice during camp. I knew that was going to be the case and it was. . But it didn’t take long to get back.”
Though Wisconsin lost late, Ball rushed for three touchdowns against Nebraska. He got two more in a romp over Illinois the next week. Then he really let loose, combining for 418 yards and five TDs against Purdue and Minnesota. He was held scoreless again in an overtime loss to Michigan State, but roared back with the three TDs and 198 yards against the Hoosiers.
He now has 16 touchdowns this year, as many as Idaho’s entire team.
The Badgers have a long, proud history of stellar running backs — 1999 Heisman winner Ron Dayne is still the FBS’ all-time leading rusher — and the Wisconsin linemen take pride in playing a part in that. Ball’s name may wind up at the top of the touchdown list, but his line knows it paved the way for him to get there.
“He does most of the work out there and we get taken along for the ride sometimes,” offensive tackle Rick Wagner said.