By TOM LEA
MADISON – It’s almost unfathomable to think about and somewhat absurdly irrational to soak it, but you can say it.
Montee Ball, UW’s returning Heisman candidate and All-American tailback, wasn’t Montee Ball good during Wisconsin’s 26-21 win over Northern Iowa.
Additionally, and to be fair, the Badgers offensive line didn’t do that great a job of blocking for Ball, either.
“There were some shoestring tackles, some almost cuts,” UW offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. “Montee, he’s going to put some pressure on himself to be a great player. I think we had some holes at times and we didn’t quite get it done and get it there.”
Ball flat out said he was disappointed in his performance — performance, not effort — in UW’s season opening game. Like Canada said, Ball thought he left yards on the field with his inability to break the final tackle that would have sprung him for a big gain.
You can say he was rusty (that’s fine and even understood), but knowing he’s a senior, one of the best tailbacks in the country and one of UW’s main offensive weapons, the rust has eventually got to come off.
“I need to get my feet up on a couple of those runs,” Ball said. “It seems like (UNI) was crawling and swiping at my feet. I think they did a great job. They’re a pretty hard hitting team, a pretty good team.”
Head coach Bret Bielema has continually talked about Ball’s performance as ‘vintage Montee.’ He liked the physicality he played with, the demeanor he instilled throughout the game and the manner in which he wasn’t happy with his play, even though he rushed for 120 yards, scored a touchdown and chipped in 31 more yards receiving.
“I found it amazing that 150 all-purpose yards with a touchdown is a bad day,” Bielema said. “I guess we’ll take those bad days whenever they come.”
But Ball wants to be better. Is there any concern the rust will continue lingering on? Or is Ball confident his abilities to make people miss will shine through?
“It will most definitely come back,” Ball said. “I’m not worried about that at all to be honest with you. That will be the least of my worries.”
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