Badgers show off nation’s best running back tandem in win over Minnesota

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Wisconsin Badgers running backs James White and Montee Ball are running away as the nation’s top running back tandem.

The duo combined to rush for 341 yards on 39 carries (8.74 average) and all five of Wisconsin’s (6-2, 3-1) touchdowns in a 38-13 win over Minnesota.

White not only dominated the normal running game, he debuted at quarterback in the Badgers wildcat formation known as the “Barge” package. Following the game, head coach Bret Bielema emphasized how “fun and exciting,” this year’s team is.


What It Means: Sure, Wisconsin retained Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the ninth straight year, but they also became bowl-eligble, joining Northwestern as the only other Big Ten team to do so. The Badgers have made leaps and strides since the beginning of the season on the offensive line and in the run game. In the past two games, they have racked up 804 rushing yards. And defensively, Wisconsin hasn’t lost a step as they forced the Gophers (4-3, 0-3) to go three-and-out on 7-of-11 possessions.  With upcoming games against Michigan State and Ohio State, Wisconsin has an opportunity to reclaim their spot among the conference’s elite teams.

Player of the Game: RB James White (15 carries, 175 yards and three touchdowns)

It may not show in the box-score, but White was the better back for the majority of the game. Ball ended up with 166 yards on 24 caries and two touchdowns but most of it came late. In this game, White ran for an average of 11.7 yards per carry, bringing his career average to 6.1 yards. For a comparison, the great Ron Dayne’s UW career record is 5.8 yards per carry.

White’s three touchdowns came on carries of 14, 34 and 48 yards.

Highlight of the Game: The introduction of the new “Barge” package has to be the most exciting thing the Badgers have done all season. An invention of offensive coordinator Matt Canada, it’s rightfully named because the six or seven offensive lineman used represents a real-life barge moving down the Mississippi River. On the second drive of the game, White took two snaps in the formation, including a 14 yard touchdown for the first score of the game.

Stat of the Game (4-of-5): The number of times Wisconsin punter Drew Meyer pinned the Gophers within their 20 yard line in a first half which could be called Puntapalooza.  The freshman Meyer has been one of the Badgers unsung heroes on the season.

What’s Next: From college football’s oldest rivalry to one of the newest ones, Wisconsin welcomes in Michigan State. The Badgers and Spartans played arguably the two most entertaining games in the conference last season. Don’t think the Spartans have forgot about being left out of a BCS bowl the past two season because of the Rose Bowl bound Badgers. Michigan State has struggled as of late, but they should be more focused for the Badgers than any opponent they’ve had all season.

What did you think of the Badgers big win over Minnesota? Let me know by commenting below.

Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice and pretend to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best. If social media is not your thing, shoot him an email at grays@uwalumni.com.

Pictures:

Montee Ball and James White (flickr.com)

Linebacker Trio w/ Axe (Wisconsin Badgers Official Facebook Page)

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