Badgers RB Ball may face Huskers after head injury

BY foxsports • September 25, 2012

Already off to an unsettled start to the season, Wisconsin now must prepare for a trip to Nebraska with running back Montee Ball's status up in the air.

Ball left Saturday's game against UTEP with a head injury, and coach Bret Bielema said Monday he was optimistic but not certain that Ball will be able to practice this week as the Badgers (3-1) prepare for their Big Ten opener against the 22nd-ranked Cornhuskers (3-1).

Bielema said he was ''not overly concerned'' that Ball would have to sit out this week, even though it's the star running back's second head injury in less than two months.

''Montee will get evaluated, has the possibility of practicing on Tuesday,'' Bielema said. ''We'll see where that goes.''

Bielema said Ball was ''really upbeat'' when the two talked Saturday night. Ball, a Heisman Trophy finalist last season, missed most of camp after he was attacked near campus Aug. 1 and sustained a concussion. Three students have been charged in connection with the incident.

Bielema noted that Ball bounced back fairly quickly after the attack, and said his injury didn't appear to be severe on Saturday.

''He wasn't knocked out cold or anything like that,'' Bielema said.

Ball had nine carries for 40 yards and a touchdown before leaving. He also lost a fumble, the first of his career.

The good news for the Badgers is that they have plenty of depth behind Ball, as they showed in Saturday's 37-26 victory over a surprisingly competitive UTEP team.

Junior James White had 15 carries for 65 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Melvin Gordon had eight carries for 112 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

''I couldn't be more proud of those two guys,'' Bielema said. ''(The) preparation they put in, the patience they showed, and then when Montee went down, they were excited about the opportunity.''

White's second touchdown of the day was critical for the Badgers, who were holding a precarious 23-19 lead in the fourth quarter. Gordon's long TD then put the game away.

It was the continuation of a shaky start to the season for the Badgers.

After barely beating FCS school Northern Iowa at home in their opener, Wisconsin lost at Oregon State. With the Badgers' typically dominant offensive line not performing up to par, Bielema abruptly dismissed new offensive line coach Mike Markuson only two games into the season.

Then Bielema made a quarterback change at halftime of a narrow victory over Utah State, benching heralded transfer Danny O'Brien in favor of redshirt freshman Joel Stave.

Stave was solid against UTEP, completing 12 of 17 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown - although he did throw an interception, a continuation of the turnover issues that led in large part to O'Brien's demotion.