MADISON, Wis. Montee Ball was in charge of the entertainment for Wisconsins senior day.
Needing just two touchdowns to become the all-time leader in major college football, the Badgers running back wouldve liked nothing more than to get the record Saturday when Wisconsin (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) hosted unbeaten Ohio State in Balls final game at Camp Randall Stadium.
Its going to be extra special to do it at home if it happens, he said before the game. Itd be ideal to break a record like that on home turf, in front of our fans.
Ball, who had a 7-yard touchdown run in the game, has 78 career touchdowns after running for three scores against Indiana last weekend. Thats three more than 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams, and he tied the FBS record holder Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio).
Making Balls run all the more impressive is that he didnt 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 touchdowns to pass Prentice, and hed averaged almost three per game 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.
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 didnt take long to get back.
He now has 17 touchdowns this year, as many as Idahos entire team.
Hell be a fine NFL running back, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. Hes got great vision; hes very durable. ... Hes got great acceleration, much faster than I originally thought. Hes a big-time, big-time back.
With a big-time offensive line in front of him.
The Badgers have a long, proud history of stellar running backs, and the Wisconsin linemen take pride in playing a part in that.
He does most of the work out there, and we get taken along for the ride sometimes, offensive tackle Rick Wagner said.
Thats one of the reasons we all came here and want to be O-linemen. Were going to get that chance to focus on the run, Wagner said. We dont want to be a big passing school here. We want to use the O-line to its full advantage.