The beast that is Montee Ball seemed caged last Saturday against Northern Iowa.
"Seemed" is the right word, as rushing for more than 100 yards and a touchdown, as well as pounding the rock for two critical fourth-quarter first downs that iced the game, make his objective stat line rather impressive.
Yet against an FCS school, the star Wisconsin tailback did not seem like the dominant defense-buster that Badger fans have come to expect. However, the Madison faithful should not fret—Montee will finish the season firmly in Heisman contention.
Any talk of Ball losing a step is akin to Chicken Little’s gripes about the sky falling.
It is important to remember that Wisconsin is traditionally a slow-starting team. In their 2010 season, they ended with a string of dominating performances that eventually led to a Rose Bowl berth. Yet at the beginning of the season, they barely squeaked out a one-point home victory over the perpetual mediocrity that is Arizona State.
Wisconsin is also getting comfortable with a new offensive coordinator in Matt Canada and a new-look offensive line. Combine the fact that Wisconsin has been an O-line factory for years and Canada’s successful record at Northern Illinois, and expect the offense (and Ball) to be back to its dominant ways before conference play begins.
Arguably the brightest spot of the Northern Iowa game was the play of Danny O’Brien. If O’Brien can continue to make teams respect the Wisconsin passing attack, Ball will see fewer teams stack the box the remainder of the season.
Ball was not up to form last week. However, expect all the pieces to fall into place in the next couple of weeks and Ball to regain his mantle as college football’s best tailback.