MADISON, Wis. – Last Saturday, he became college football’s all-time leading scorer. Next Saturday, he can break the NCAA career record for touchdowns scored. On Dec. 1, he has the opportunity to make history by leading the Badgers to their third-straight trip to the Rose Bowl. And now, on Dec. 6, Wisconsin senior running back Montee Ball can become just the second UW running back to win the Doak Walker Award.
On Thursday, Ball was named one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, given to the top running back in the country since 1990. It is the second-straight year Ball has been voted a finalist and earned a trip to The Home Depot College Football Awards show in Orlando, Fla. This year’s show will be held on Thursday, Dec. 6, at 6:30 p.m. CT from the Boardwalk at Walt Disney World and be broadcast by ESPN.
Ball joins Oregon’s Kenjon Barner and UCLA’s Jonathan Franklin as finalists this year. He is the third Badger to be named a Doak Walker Award finalist, joining Ron Dayne and John Clay. Dayne, the only other Badger to be a finalist twice, won the award in 1999.
Ball is currently sixth in the country among running backs in rushing yards (1,417) and rushing TDs (17). He leads the Big Ten in both categories. He also ranks third among players in BCS conferences in yards after contact with 648. With an unparalleled combination of strength and speed, Ball is also sixth in the country among running backs with 41 runs of at least 10 yards this season.
Ball traditionally has gotten stronger as the season has progressed and this year is no different. His 964 rushing yards and 160.7 rushing yards per game since Oct. 1 are both third-best among RBs in the country. Over the last three seasons, Wisconsin has played 13 games after Nov. 1. Ball is averaging 172.0 rushing yards and has scored 34 touchdowns in those games. The Badgers finish the regular season at Penn State on Saturday then play either Nebraska or Michigan in the Big Ten Football Championship Game.
Ball has rushed for at least 166 yards in four of his last five games, including 191 last week vs. No. 6 Ohio State. He is the first player to rush for 190 yards against Ohio State since Eric McCoo (Penn State) had 211 yards on Oct. 16, 1999. The Buckeyes entered the game giving up an average of 107.9 yards per game on the ground. Ball had 112 in the first half.
Ball’s 1,057 rushing yards in Big Ten play (151.0 yards per game) are 268 more than Northwestern’s Venric Mark, who is in second place. Ball is on pace to become just the seventh player in Big Ten history (and third Badger – Alan Ameche in 1951-52 and Dayne in 1998-99) to lead the conference in rushing yards in league games in two straight seasons (league records date back to 1939). According to the STATS database, which goes back to 1996, no player has averaged at least 150.0 rushing yards per game in Big Ten games in consecutive seasons. Ball averaged 157.8 yards per game in league play last year.
Against Ohio State last Saturday, Ball scored his 78th career touchdown, tying him with Travis Prentice (Miami, Ohio) for the all-time NCAA career lead. Adding his two-point conversion last year vs. the Buckeyes, Ball has now scored 470 points in his career, best in FBS history. The average length of Ball’s TDs in his career is 10.8 yards, while his 72 rushing TDs have averaged 11.1 yards.