NCAA FB

Ball, Burkhead should be at best in B10 title game

Share This Story

   
 

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)

Two of the Big Ten's best running backs will be on the field when Wisconsin and No. 14 Nebraska meet in Saturday night's conference championship game.

Wisconsin's Montee Ball has been at his best lately after a slow start.

Nebraska's Rex Burkhead is running strong after missing a month with an aggravated knee sprain.

The two have long admired and learned from each other.

Burkhead said he's studied tape of Ball to cull tips on how to better use his blockers and to see how Ball patiently waits for a hole to open and attacks it.

Ball said he tries to emulate Burkhead's toughness and relentlessness.

''That man, he's a very physical running back,'' Ball said. ''He doesn't shy away from contact. I believe he loves contact. He loves to deliver the blow to defenders. What I take from him is, don't shy from contact and keep your feet churning.''

Ball, a Heisman Trophy finalist after rushing for 1,923 yards and scoring 39 touchdowns last season, this week earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second straight year following a regular season in which he piled up 1,528 yards and 18 TDs.

He scored his 79th career touchdown last week against Penn State to set an NCAA record.

Burkhead was a first-team All-Big Ten pick in 2011 after a 1,357-yard, 15-TD season. He sprained his left knee on his third carry of the opener against Southern Mississippi, has aggravated the injury twice and appeared in only six games. He has 474 yards on 63 carries, a 7.5-yard average.

Burkhead originally planned to return in Indianapolis on Saturday, but the Huskers (10-2, 7-1) needed a boost in the second half against Iowa last week, and he told coach Bo Pelini he was ready when needed.

Burkhead started the third quarter, scored the go-ahead touchdown in a 13-7, Legends Division-clinching victory and finished with 69 yards on 16 carries, including a few pile-moving runs.

Pelini said he expects Burkhead to be in the starting lineup against the Badgers (7-5, 4-4).

Burkhead gives the Huskers relatively fresh legs to go along with 1,000-yard rusher Ameer Abdullah and two other backs, who worked as the primary ball-carrier when Burkhead was out.

''I hope it kind of gives a burst of energy to the team, just being able to finish off things, finish off runs, fight for those extra yards and just help out the team however I can,'' Burkhead said.

Even without Burkhead the Huskers had the most powerful run game in the Big Ten. With him in the mix again as a runner and receiver - and with Abdullah, Braylon Heard and Imani Cross as his backups - offensive coordinator Tim Beck will have plenty of options.

''It's nice just to know he's added back into our arsenal,'' tight end Ben Cotton said.

Ball and Burkhead played major roles in the teams' first meeting this season, a 30-27 Nebraska win on Sept. 29.

Ball ran 32 times for 90 yards, and he scored the Badgers' first two touchdowns as they got out to a 20-3 lead. Ball scored again in the third quarter, but the Huskers kept him under control most of the second half. Six of his final eight carries went for losses or no gain.

Burkhead had 18 runs for 86 yards, including a 21-yarder. He fumbled on his first carry when he ran up the back of an offensive lineman, setting up the Badgers' second touchdown.

Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland, who tackled Burkhead five times in the first game, said Nebraska's offense doesn't change depending on which of the four running backs is in the game. But Burkhead is the toughest to bring down, he said, and is the master of turning a potential tackle for loss or no gain into a 2-yard pickup.

''That doesn't really show up in the stat book,'' Borland said, ''but that kind of saves their offense at times. Sometimes things will be bottled up, and instead of it being second down and 12, it's second and 8, and that changes their play-calling. I really applaud him for his ability in doing that.''

Ball, a Doak Walker Award finalist for the second straight year, is running for 153.6 yards a game since Oct. 1. He's run for at least 166 yards in four of his last six games.

The end of his senior season has been better than the start. He missed several days of preseason practice with a concussion and facial cuts after five men attacked him on a street in Madison, Wis.

He was held to 61 yards in a loss to Oregon State, had to run 37 times to get his 139 yards in a narrow win over Utah State and sustained another head injury in the first half against UTEP.

''Yards have been a lot tougher this year,'' Ball said.

A big performance against Nebraska could help send Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl for a third straight year and ease the sting of a five-loss season. The Badgers, who finished third in the Leaders Division, are in the title game because Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible.

''These five losses, one loss being against Nebraska, we really feel we have something to prove against them and to the nation,'' Ball said. ''I'm hoping the best team comes out winning, which is us.''

Tagged: Wisconsin, Nebraska, Montee Ball, Rex Burkhead

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Sumlin annoyed by media's Manziel questions Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Kevin Sumlin responds to questions about life after Johnny Football by toying wi...

AJ Pasquale's journey back to UCLA Posted: Jun 17, 2014
UCLA football ops intern AJ Pasquale describes his own personal journey after th...

Winston issued adult civil citation Posted: Apr 30, 2014
Get the latest news surrounding Jameis Winston's recent shoplifting fiasco.

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash