Montee Ball had an absolutely spectacular season last year for the Wisconsin Badgers. He rushed for 1,923 yards on 307 carries and a whopping 33 touchdowns. He also caught six receiving touchdowns.
This year, he's gotten off to a much slower start. Through six games, Ball rushed for 569 yards on 143 carries. To put this in perspective, in 2010, in 163 carries, Ball rushed for 996 yards. Quite a difference.
It's hard to pinpoint why he got off to a slow start. Perhaps the injuries suffered from an unprovoked attack in August played a role.
He's having a good season, but not a dominant one like last year. That all looks like it's going to change.
Today against Purdue, Ball has 247 yards on 29 carries. That's good for 8.5 yards per carry. He's added three touchdowns and has a long run of 67. That's the longest run of his career.
Purdue has a pretty decent defense, giving up 25.4 points per game, good for 60th in the nation.
So is Ball back? We say yes. The slow start can be attributed to the attack in August. The attack in was on August 3. His first game was on September 1. No matter who you are, it takes time to overcome something like that, on an emotional level, and certainly on a physical level.
Additionally, Wisconsin is shifting between two quarterbacks, trying to find a replacement for Russell Wilson. That uncertainty allows defenses to load up against the run.
Now it seems that Ball has gotten his feet back under him. 247 yards is impressive. Last season, his season-high was 224 yards.
The key for Ball, obviously, is to maintain this. He doesn't need to rush for 200-plus yards every game from here on out. But he can't rush for 93 yards on 31 carries like he did against Nebraska. That's three yards per carry. That's not good enough. That's against a defense that gave up 63 points to Ohio State.
If Ball can keep this up, then there's no reason why he can't get back to his lofty heights of a year ago. He certainly has the talent. He just needs to regain some consistency.
But if today is any indication, Ball has found some of that magic. And it looks like he'll be able to sustain it.