Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 12/10/11
Wisconsin running back Montee Ball was considered a darkhorse all along to win the Heisman Trophy, so perhaps the end result shouldn't come as much of a surprise.On Saturday night, Ball finished fourth in the Heisman voting, behind Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who won the Heisman, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Alabama running back Trent Richardson.Ball received 22 first-place votes and 348 total points. Griffin won with 405 first-place votes and 1,687 total points. Luck tallied 247 first-place votes and 1,407 points and Richardson received 138 first-place votes with 978 points. LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu placed fifth among the five finalists, with 34 first-place votes and 327 total points.Ball said earlier in the week that winning the Heisman was not most important to him. All that mattered was that he earned a spot as one of the finalists, which was victory enough.His play during the season more than warranted a selection to the final five.Ball leads the nation with 1,759 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns scored, with 32 coming on the ground. He ranks fourth in the country in yards per game, at 135.3 per contest, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. And during the Badgers' current five-game winning streak, he averaged 181.2 yards per game and scored 14 rushing touchdowns.Ball is just one touchdown away from matching the all-time Football Bowl Subdivision record of 39 set by Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State in 1988. Ball has already set the NCAA record for multiple touchdown games in one season, tallying at least two TDs in all 13 games in which he has played.The play of Ball this season drastically improved from a year ago, when he rushed for 996 yards as a sophomore. Ball lost 26 pounds in the offseason so he wouldn't feel as top-heavy while running the ball, shedding the weight behind a rigorous running regimen and a steady diet of cottage cheese and baked potatoes. When this season began, he quickly became the Badgers' starting running back in place of James White.Ball's standout games this season included a 151-yard, four-touchdown performance against Nebraska and a 223-yard, three-TD game against Purdue. He added 224 yards rushing in a game against Illinois, four touchdowns in the Leaders Division-clinching victory against Penn State and three more rushing scores during Wisconsin's 42-39 victory against Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game.Wisconsin (11-2) plays Oregon (11-2) in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2. This season, Ball was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, won the Big Ten's inaugural Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year Award and was an American Football Coaches Association All-America Selection. Additionally, Ball was a Doak Walker Award finalist, given to the nation's top running back.Ball was the first Wisconsin player to be a Heisman finalist since Badgers running back Ron Dayne, who won the award in 1999.Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter
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