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November 5, 2011

Notes: Ball closing in on records

MADISON - Since Montee Ball earned a featured role in Paul Chryst's offense a season ago, namely starting with UW's game at Iowa a year ago, he's done nothing but score touchdowns and rack up yards.

That game, one UW went on to win when Ball battled for an ultra-impressive eight-yard touchdown rush, essentially served as the stick used to poke a sleeping giant.

Alas, that giant has been awaken.

Including that game in Iowa City, Ball has rushed for 1,861 yards in UW's past 15 games. During the same time frame he has accumulated 291 receiving yards and scored 39 touchdowns.

Yes, 39 touchdowns.

So far this season, by far his best as a Badgers, Ball has rushed for 1,076 yards and 21 touchdowns. Add in his three receiving touchdowns and the junior tailback has already matched Brian Calhoun's school record of 24 touchdowns in a single season.

That's something Ball is aware of.

"I have my own personal goals," Ball said. "But also, my goals are to win the rest of the season out. Obviously each player has some of their own personal goals."

Should Ball score two more touchdowns this season he'll have tied the Big Ten single-season record with 26 scores. And though Ball has only started 13 games during his Badger career he already has 45 touchdowns.

Only Badger legend Ron Dayne's 71 career touchdowns are better.

Ball is approaching esteemed territory.

"Obviously at the beginning of the season I didn't have that goal," Ball said of his torrid touchdown pace. "I really hope people really look at how hard I worked in the offseason and how I really embraced the challenge of losing weight and how it actually works during the season."

Don't look now, but Ball is currently only 13 scores shy of Barry Sanders' all-time touchdown record in a single season. UW still has at least four games left to play, with a fifth possible should the Badgers wind up in the inaugural Big Ten championship game.

Leadership at its finest:

Senior safety Aaron Henry, who took each of UW's past two losses incredibly hard, gave an impassioned speech prior to Wisconsin's beat down of Purdue. He talked about the importance of fighting back, that nothing this team can do the rest of the season can mean much of anything if they don't fight back and find a way to skate past the adversity they've seen.

"Aaron and I are really close and we have a really close relationship," UW senior quarterback Russell Wilson said. "Being a captain with Aaron is truly a blessing, especially just getting to know him and what he's been through.

"He's a great leader."

Henry, who left Saturday's game with an ankle sprain during the third quarter, did not return to action. He was not available for comment after the win.

Head coach Bret Bielema did say that Henry expects to practice Tuesday afternoon in preparation for UW's annual rivalry game against Minnesota.

"He was negative on the X-Rays," Bielema said. "I doubt very much that he won't be able to do it."

Injury report:

-Aside from Henry's ankle sprain, it seems as though UW came out of Saturday's game relatively healthy. Barring any injury this week it seems as though the Badgers will be at, or near, full strength for Minnesota.

-Redshirt freshman Bryce Gilbert did not play against Purdue. He suffered a right ankle sprain during Tuesday's practice. Bielema said there is potential for Gilbert to return sometime this week. If not, it seems as though he'll be ready for Illinois prep.

Team notes:

-UW has won each of its past 15 home games, good for the third-longest streak in the nation. During those games Wisconsin has scored at least 50 points in four games. UW only managed to score 48 and 49 yards in the other two games, respectively of course.

-Wisconsin toppled the 600-yard mark for total offense for the third time this season.

-The Badgers have turned each of their opponents 10 turnovers into points this season.

-When Ball and James White score a touchdown in the same game UW is a perfect 9-0.

Individual notes:

-Ball has scored a touchdown in each of UW's past 15 games.

-With two passing touchdowns against Purdue, Wilson has now thrown at least one touchdown pass in 33-straight games. Texas Tech's Graham Harrell's 36-consecutive game streak is the NCAA record. Wilson also tied John Stocco's UW record with his 21st passing touchdown Saturday afternoon.

-Wilson also rushed for his fourth touchdown of the season against the Boilermakers. He is now responsible for 26 touchdowns in 2011.

-Jacob Pedersen hauled in his team-leading seventh touchdown reception during UW's first drive of the game.

-Sophomore wide receiver Jeff Duckworth hauled in a 66-yard reception Saturday. That marks the longest of his career and the longest of any Badger player this season.

-With another touchdown, sophomore Jared Abbrederis has now scored an least one receiving touchdown in five of UW's past six games.

-Kicker Philip Welch connected on a 52-yard field goal to end the first half. That is tied for the fifth-longest field goal in school history. It also marked his fourth-career field goal of 50-plus yards, the most in school history.

Quotable:

-Bielema on the play of Ball this season:

"Just from a complete standpoint, obviously the rushing numbers were there, Montee's complete nature is his ability to pass protect when he needs to. His ability to catch the ball - - that you have seen in the course of the season - - and just his mentality. He is wired in a way right now where he expects success on every play and he is extremely physical."

-Mike Taylor on whether his defense lost any confidence during the past two weeks:

"I don't think so at all. They've been tough losses, but this defense and offense know who we are and what we can do. We went out there and showed it."

-Kevin Zeitler on the offensive line's play:

"There was a fire under our belly today. We didn't want this trend to continue. We were angry. (The last week) was rough. Everyone was just dissing us. It was just time to get it going and get back on track."

-Chris Borland on turning defensive turnovers into points:

"Turnovers are huge. Mike made a great play on that one and we got another one later. Anytime you can get our offense back, especially playing the way they were today, that's huge."

-Travis Frederick on UW's very first play of the game:

"I was excited to see it. It's something to get us going. Obviously the first play is always a big thing. Montee did a great job of hitting the hole and making a guy miss. So that's something that really just energizes everybody."

-Peter Konz on UW's very first play of the game:

"That invigorates you. That makes you feel that what you're doing is working. It just gives you confidence for the rest of the games. If it happened once it could happen again. I believe Arnold (Schwarzenegger) said in Predator…. "If it bleeds we can kill it."

-Welch on his 52-yard field goal:

"I actually think it was tipped. I thought there wasn't a chance for it to go in. It just kind of floated in. I think it was tipped. I'd have to look back, but I think I hit it good. It looked all wobbly and stuff so I think somebody got a hand on it."


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