Ball, No. 12 Wisconsin open against Northern Iowa
Montee Ball is about to get a chance to leave recent
off-the-field troubles in the past.
While any returning Heisman Trophy finalist would expect to be
heavily scrutinized, even more attention than usual will be on Ball
when No. 12 Wisconsin opens the season Saturday against Northern
Iowa at Camp Randall Stadium.
Ball was beaten up near campus a month ago, leaving him with a
concussion that caused him to miss part of camp. Then he had to
answer questions about the circumstances that may have led to the
”Everyone’s looking to see how I’m going to respond after what
I dealt with,” Ball said. ”I want to make sure I respond in a
Three men were arrested in connection with the incident this
week. Previously, police have said that the attack on Ball may have
been related to an earlier fight involving Wisconsin football
players. Ball – who also was ticketed for trespassing during a
Madison block party earlier in the offseason – has denied
involvement in the earlier fight, and is hoping to move on.
”I dealt with a lot over the summer, but once adversity
strikes, you’ve got to respond,” Ball said.
Ball, who scored 39 touchdowns to tie Barry Sanders’ NCAA record
last season, and the Badgers’ typically mammoth offensive line lead
a running game that averaged 235.57 yards rushing per game last
season – 11th-best in the country. Behind Ball are two other
talented backs, James White and Melvin Gordon, who also are
expected to get their fair share of carries this season.
Northern Iowa is ranked No. 7 in a preseason FCS coaches’ poll,
and has given FBS teams trouble in recent years.
The Panthers beat Iowa State in 2007 and nearly beat the
Cyclones again last year, losing 20-19 after blowing a late lead.
Northern Iowa lost 17-16 at Iowa in 2009 after having a pair of
late field goal attempts blocked.
”All the coaches make sure to tell us about that, so we
approach them just like we approach Ohio State and Michigan State.
… They’re a pretty good team,” Ball said. ”We’ve got to make
sure that we play our game, or they’ll shock us.”
Badgers coach Bret Bielema figures the Panthers will try to stop
the run first.
”They are going to crowd the box,” Bielema said. ”I’m sure
they’re going to try to make us throw the football if we have to.
And they know we’ve got a first-year starter in Danny O’Brien here
at Wisconsin as well.”
While Bielema is opening the season with several new assistant
coaches – including new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, after
Paul Chryst left to take over as the head coach at Pittsburgh – the
Badgers’ biggest question on offense is the play of O’Brien.
O’Brien won the starting job in camp after transferring from
Maryland. And while he’s likely to face comparisons to last year’s
transfer sensation, Russell Wilson, O’Brien is doing his best to
put that aside and play within the framework of the offense.
”I’m ready for it from the outside, but it’s something that I
knew before I even came here that it was going to be brought up,”
O’Brien said he’s looking forward to the atmosphere at Camp
Randall, and Bielema hopes he doesn’t have too many nerves in his
first home start.
”Camp Randall is a very electric environment,” Bielema said.
”And on the same account, even at the home stadium that can cause
some people to get some jitters. It’s going to be important for him
to start off very, very positive.”
Ball expects the Badgers to be just as explosive on offense as
they were last year, when they scored 44.14 points per game last
season, sixth-best in the nation.
”Yes, I do,” Ball said. ”I honestly do. … We have some key
weapons on offense that are going to put some numbers on the
Bielema said offensive fireworks are nice, but victories are
”You know me, I’m probably just worried about the final
score,” Bielema said. ”As long as we’ve got one more than they
do, I really don’t care. We’re not into setting records or putting
up numbers. But it’s a byproduct of what we’ve done. I think that’s
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