Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 11/19/11
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Wisconsin senior defensive back Aaron Henry doesn't mince words ever. So on Saturday, he spelled it out for anybody who doesn't see what he sees every day: Move over LaMichael James and stand aside Trent Richardson because junior Montee Ball is the best running back in college football."The stats speak for (themselves)," Henry said after Ball rushed for 224 yards in No. 15 Wisconsin's 28-17 win against Illinois. "They said he rushed for 200 yards. It was a quiet 200, but Montee Ball is Montee Ball. Week in and week out, he doesn't let anybody down."Quiet might not accurately describe Ball's performance against the Illini he carried a season-high 38 times and racked up two rushing touchdowns and one receiving TD. In the past three weeks, Ball has rushed for 613 yards and seven touchdowns, plus added two scores as a receiver. "It was pretty quiet because even in the game I didn't know how many yards I had," said Ball, who ho-hummed about his seventh 100-plus-yard rushing game of the season and 13th of his career. "Just chipping away at the iceberg."Ball led the Badgers (9-2, 5-2 in the Big Ten) back from a 17-7 halftime deficit , and the chipping he referred to could just as easily describe his march into college football's record books. Ball scored a touchdown for the 17th straight game and has scored at least two touchdowns in every game this season. With his three scores against Illinois, he became just the fifth player in FBS history with at least 30 touchdowns in a season, and he's now within range of breaking a record that has stood for 23 years: Barry Sanders' 39 TDs during his 1988 Heisman season.With at least two games left, three if the Badgers beat Penn State next weekend and advance to the Big Ten championship game, Ball needs nine touchdowns to tie Sanders' mark. Sanders' record doesn't include his five-touchdown Holiday Bowl performance at the end of that season bowl games weren't included in players' statistics until 2002 but the Badgers aren't splitting hairs. They know they are witnessing an historic season."Montee is a special player," offensive lineman Travis Frederick said. "He's a guy that can turn it on and make things happen when things aren't happening. To have that on our team is a blessing and something you don't see every day on every team."Ball entered fall camp having slimmed his bulky 240-pound frame to around 215 pounds, a much-publicized decision he made to help him run quicker and cut crisper. Through 11 games, Ball has dropped to 204 pounds, but his ability to batter a defense seems to be only increasing.Ball converted two fourth-and-1 runs on the first drive of the second half, and 26 of his 38 carries came after halftime."He's a workhorse," said senior quarterback Russell Wilson, who didn't have to carry much of the offensive load and completed 10 of 13 passes for 90 yards. "His ability to make people miss, get first downs and obviously score when we get to the red zone and the 1- and 2-yard line is huge."But the weight loss showed on Ball's 17-yard fourth-quarter score, as he got to the second level of the defense and unleashed a slick spin move on junior cornerback on Terry Hawthorne. Hawthorne grabbed air and Ball flashed a wry smile on his way into the end zone."He's been able to get the job done," senior guard Kevin Zeitler said. "He's been reliable, he's been productive, so why not rely on him?"With his freshly trimmed body, Ball was in a position battle with sophomore James White, who rushed for 1,052 yards last season, during summer camp. Both running backs were expected to receive about 14 carries per game to balance the workload, but Ball got 10 carries against UNLV in the opener and turned them into three touchdowns. He added another TD as a receiver and never let go of the featured back spot."I was really confident in myself after the first game," Ball said. "I just wanted to keep it like that and keep the ball in my hands."According to coach Bret Bielema and Ball's teammates, the running back will not be outworked on the practice field despite his continued success. It's the reason games have started to look almost easy for the player who had 996 rushing yards as a sophomore and is up to 1,466 this season."He's a tremendous worker, and you can see that with the weight he lost," sophomore linebacker Chris Borland said. "We see that every day. He's precise in the way he runs his routes, the way he picks up blocks and the way he runs. I am glad he's on our team."
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