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Sunday, February 05, 2023
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Football: Keeping a Wisconsin tradition alive

Some things in life are certain. Death, taxes and the Badgers having a strong run game are the three that instantly come to mind.

Wisconsin has one of the most historic running games in college football. Some would call it a tradition. It would appear after all these years, the Badgers still attribute great value to their running backs who must find holes between their gargantuan offensive lineman.

This season Wisconsin has rushed for 2,078 yards and passed for 1,517, while their opponents have rushed for just 613 yards and passed for 1,382.

What makes the Badgers’ run game historic is the success year after year that has characterized Wisconsin’s football program. The backs molded in Camp Randall are many, including two Heisman trophy winners.

Lino Dante “Alan” Ameche was a Wisconsin native from Kenosha, Wis., who played fullback for the Badgers in the early 1950s, winning the first of the Badgers’ duo of Heismans. Ameche went on to play professionally for the Baltimore Colts, where he received rookie of the year. While at UW, Ameche rushed for 3,212 yards on 673 carries and scored 25 touchdowns. He was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1975.

The other Heisman trophy winner to come out of UW-Madison was Ron Dayne in 1999. Both he and Ameche had their numbers retired at Camp Randall. Dayne’s Heisman trophy has even been displayed in Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant on University Avenue in Madison, Wis. Dayne is especially famous around the UW-Madison campus and made an appearance at Camp Randall earlier this season to be recognized for his recent induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Dayne is the NCAA’s all-time career rushing leader with 7,125 yards. While at Wisconsin Dayne rang up 71 rushing touchdowns, a UW record until it was broken by recent graduate Montee Ball.

Ball rushed for 5,140 yards and 77 touchdowns while playing for the Badgers, breaking the NCAA touchdown record his senior year in 2012. Ball was a Heisman candidate after his senior year and now plays for the Denver Broncos.

It would appear that the Badgers have not missed a beat since Ball left Camp Randall for good.

Senior running back James White traded snaps with Ball during his career as a Badger, and now leads all active Football Bowl Subdivision players with 39 career rushing touchdowns and 41 career touchdowns.

White has 3,243 career rushing yards with the Badgers. Trading snaps with White this season is redshirt sophomore running back Melvin Gordon, who currently leads Wisconsin in rushing yards this season and is averaging 144 yards per game, recording 11 touchdowns thus far.

The dynamic duo got the addition of true freshman running back Corey Clement this season, who has 414 yards and five touchdowns this year.

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“He’s a guy that’s working hard every week just like everybody else,” White said. “He’s been coming out to prove that he can get in early and contribute. I do think that he will benefit the offense.”

Wisconsin seemingly has a way with finding and cultivating new talent to be able to stick to their ground and pound offense. The Badgers keep it tight and push their way downfield with the help of a big, old-fashioned Midwestern line, even as the NCAA slowly becomes an aerial assault of spread offenses with scrambling quarterbacks.

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