Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Heisman Case For Montee Ball

Montee Ball strikes the pose against UNLV in week one

In a year where there is no clear cut favorite for the Heisman Trophy with only two weeks left in the college football regular season, it baffles me that Wisconsin running back Montee Ball is not a serious contender for the prestigious honor. Ball plays for a ranked team in a major conference and is on pace to finish the season with over 1750 rushing yards and 35 total touchdowns. Yet, Ball is not on most voters’ radars.

This is partly due to the hype quarterback Russell Wilson has been receiving all season. Don’t get me wrong, Wilson definitely deserves the hype. He’s thrown for 26 touchdowns and just three interceptions and is on pace to shatter the NCAA record for pass efficiency rating (he currently sits at 199.3, the current record held by Hawaii’s Colt Brennan is 186.0). The athletic department has been hyping Wilson for the Heisman since the Badgers defeated Nebraska in early October. The @RussellManiaXVI twitter feed was created just hours after the Badgers 48-17 victory. Wilson has also had some classic Heisman moments spoiled by shoddy defense and special teams. The senior engineered fourth quarter comebacks on the road against Michigan State and Ohio State, only to have his defense blow the games in the final seconds.

However, as great as Wilson has been the season, I believe Montee Ball is having a more special season and is more important to the success of the Badgers offense. Ball got knocked out of the game against Michigan State after he took a helmet to helmet hit in the second quarter. The offense faltered without him, and didn’t get back on track until Ball returned in the second half. The Badgers had a hard time getting anything going against Ohio State until Ball starting running free in the fourth quarter. Also, don’t forget about Ball’s spectacular touchdown grab in the first quarter that saved Wilson. Ball snatched a poor throw from Wilson, it should have been picked off, and ran into the end zone for the game’s first score.

Ball has reached the end zone 30 times this season, and scored at least two touchdowns in every game this season.┬áHe is just the fifth player in FBS history to score at least 30 touchdowns in a season. The junior has already broken the Wisconsin and Big Ten records for most rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns in a season, and with possibly three games left, Ball still has an outside chance to break Barry Sanders’ outrageous record of 39 total touchdowns. Ball is averaging a touchdown every 8.0 times he touches the ball

Ball ranks first in the NCAA in rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns and total scoring. Ball has accounted for 182 points this season, 32 more than Kansas State quarterback Colin Klein, who sits in second. Ball is second in the NCAA in rushing yards, just two yards behind Western Kentucky’s Bobby Rainey.

Wisconsin two losses hurts Ball’s chances, but it’s important to remember that the Badgers didn’t lose those games because of Ball, and both of those losses came on hail mary passes. Ball has played well in every one of Wisconsin’s toughest tests.

48-17 win vs Nebraska: 30 carries, 151 yards, 4 TDs

37-31 loss at Michigan St: 18 carries, 115 yards, TD; 2 rec, 24 yards, TD

33-29 loss at Ohio St: 17 carries, 84 yards, TD; 3 rec, 30 yards, TD

28-17 win vs Illinois: 38 carries, 224 yards, 2 TDs; 1 rec TD

According to the UW athletic department, in three games against teams ranked among the top 16 in the country in total defense (Michigan State, Ohio State and Illinois), he has averaged 141.3 rushing yards, 159.0 all-purpose yards and scored seven touchdowns (four rushing, three receiving).

Alabama running back Trent Richardson is considered by most to be a serious contender for the Heisman. Heisman Pundit believes that if the vote were held right now, Richardson would finish third, behind Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. However, Ball has better numbers than Richardson across the board. Ball has more rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns, and has a higher yards per carry average.

Richardson had a chance to have a Heisman moment on the biggest stage possible, last month’s “Game of the Century” between Alabama and LSU. The junior didn’t have a poor performance, he ran for 89 yards and had 5 catches for 80 yards, but he didn’t reach the end zone as his team lost 9-6 in overtime.

At this point, there are only a few reasons why someone would vote for Richardson over Ball. Richardson is considered to be the more talented player and have the higher draft stock. Most pundits have Richardson being a top five or top ten pick in next year’s NFL draft if he opts to leave early. Richardson plays for Alabama, a high profile team that plays in the most high profile conference, the SEC. Alabama is also ranked #2 in the nation, and if the season ended today, the Crimson Tide would be playing in the BCS National Championship Game. To me, none of those reasons should matter when it comes to the Heisman, the trophy supposedly given to college football’s most outstanding player.

Now, if people have Baylor’s Griffin over Ball, fine, that’s a different story. Griffin has had an outstanding season. He’s putting up video game numbers (33 TDs, only 5 INTs and over 4000 total yards) and he’s exciting as hell to watch. But if you’re going to punish Ball for playing on a two-loss team, then Griffin should be as well. Baylor has lost three times, and needed overtime to beat Kansas, one of the worst BCS teams.

Ball has possibly two more chances to shine on a big stage before Heisman voters turn in their ballots. The Badgers play Penn State this Saturday in a de facto Big Ten Leaders Division title game, and with a victory, UW will face Michigan State in the first ever Big Ten Championship game on Dec. 3. Perhaps, Ball still has a chance to capture the nation’s attention.

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Checking In: First Round Wrap-Up

Wheaton North QB John Peltz (4 total TDs this week against Jacobs) tries to escape a Glenbard North defender during the regular season – Photo from the Chicago Tribune

CLASS 5A

#6 Montini 49 #11 Woodstock North 14

Montini scored four touchdowns over a 12 play stretch in the second half to pull ahead from Woodstock North in the Broncos’ 49-14 first round victory.

The Broncos took a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Thunder battled back and cut the score to 21-14 in the second quarter. From there though, it was all Montini, as the defensing 5A state champs scored the final 28 points of the game.

Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp had another star performance, hauling in 7 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. The Nebraska-bound senior also had a 52 yard punt return for the game’s first touchdown.

Quarterback John Rhode continued his string of excellent games, completing 17 of his 25 pass attempts for 330 yards and four touchdowns.

Montini advances to the second round where they will play at #3 Sterling 1 pm on Saturday

#8 St. Francis 27 #9 Burlington 10

After losing in the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons to Montini, St. Francis broke through to the second round for the first time since 2008 when the Spartans won the Class 5A championship.

Defensive back Michael Hanson’s interception in the third quarter was the key play of the game. Trailing 14-10, Burlington opted not to punt on 4th and 13 from the St. Francis 36-yard line. Rockets QB Ryan Ritchie overthrew his target, and the ball landed in the hands of Hanson, who returned the pick 70 yards for a touchdown that put the Spartans up 21-10.

Running back Jack Petrando led the Spartans with 18 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Nick Donati added two touchdowns, one through the air and another on the ground.

St. Francis faces a tough test in the second round where they will go on the road to face #1 Kaneland at 7 pm on Saturday.

CLASS 6A

#3 Nazareth 35 #14 Deerfield 6

Nazareth running back Joshua Moore ran for 160 yards and four touchdowns in the Roadrunners dominant 35-6 first round win over Deerfield.

The Roadrunners took a 28-0 lead into halftime after holding the Warriors to just 19 yards of offense in the first two quarters. Deerfield scored its first and only touchdown with just 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Nazareth will host Cary-Grove next Saturday at 1 pm in the second round. The Roadrunners will be looking to advance to the quarterfinals for the second time in school history.

#10 Glenbard South 30 #7 Foreman 7

Running back Wesley Sanders scored two touchdowns as Glenbard South defeated Foreman 30-7 in the first round of the class 6A playoffs.

The Raiders played a sloppy game (5 fumbles, just one lost) without their starting quarterback Tyler Padera (concussion) but still dominated Foreman. Glenbard South took a 30-0 lead in the fourth quarter.

The Raiders will host Prairie Ridge next Saturday at 7 pm. The two teams met the first week of the season with Prairie Ridge winning convincingly 55-12.

#2 Prairie Ridge 49 #15 Marmion 0

Things started out well for Marmion, as the Cadets recovered a fumble on Prairie Ridge’s first offensive play of the game. However, the Cadets had a field goal attempt blocked on their ensuing possession, and things quickly went down hill.

Prairie Ridge went on to dominate the first half, taking a 42-0 lead into halftime. Quarterback Nick Nissen (12 carries, 38 yards) ran for four touchdowns. Running back Connor Greenwald added a touchdown and led the Wolves with 144 yards on 11 carries.

Marmion earned just one first down in the game while gaining only 23 yards of total offense.

#8 Lake Forest 55 #9 Fenton 20

Fenton struck first, but the Bison were unable to keep things going, losing to Lake Forest 55-20 in the first round of the class 6A playoffs.

Play-making running back Alan Geneva led the Bison with 10 catches for 97 yards and one touchdown.

Quarterback Sean Havlovic did not play for the Bison due a “school-related incident.”

Lake Forest running back Owen Williams (16 carries, 130 yards) reached the end zone four times for the Scots, who will face #1 Batavia in the second round.

CLASS 7A

#11 Carmel 28 #6 Addison Trail 20

Running backs Jordan Kos and Brian Brennan led the way for Carmel as they upset Addison Trail 28-20 in the first round of the class 7A playoffs.

Kos led the Corsairs with 31 carries for 167 yards and one touchdown while Brennan added 20 carries, 78 yards and two touchdowns. Addison Trail had only given up 48 points in the regular season, and never gave up more than 14 points in a game.

The Blazers drove down to the Carmel 11 yard line late in the fourth quarter in an attempt to send the game to overtime. However, the Corsairs forced two incompletions and time expired.

AT Quarterback Trevor Bermingham completed 19 of his 33 pass attempts for 177 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Carmel will host Crystal Lake South in the second round. The game kicks off at 7 pm Friday night.

#7 Wheaton North 28 #10 Jacobs 0

John Peltz had another strong performance as Wheaton North flew by Jacobs 28-0 in the first round.

Peltz completed 13 of his 19 pass attempts for 277 yards and four touchdowns. The junior added another touchdown on the ground.

Sophomore Matt Biegalski caught 5 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown while senior Johnny Daniels had 3 grabs for 73 yards and two touchdowns.

The Falcons’ defense was able to shut down Jacobs by holding down running back Caz Zyks. The talented back with a sweet name only gained 27 yards on 11 carries.

Wheaton North will face Rockford Boylan, the defending 6A champions, in the second round. That game kicks off at 1 pm Saturday in Rockford.

CLASS 8A

#11 Glenbard North 27 Barrington 21

Glenbard North only completed two passes in their 27-21 fupset win over Barrington, but the second one happened to be the play of the game.

With the scored tied at 21 halfway through the fourth quarter, Panthers quarterback Brian Murphy threw up a prayer into the end zone. The ball somehow fell into the hands of Logan Henshall for a touchdown (also Henshall’s first catch as a varsity player) and the Panthers took a 27-21 lead.

Once again, most of the Glenbard North offensive production came from the Jackson brothers. Junior Justin (17 carries, 95 yards) reached the end zone three times, while senior Phil ran for 122 yards on 21 carries.

The Panthers advanced to the second round where they will host Palatine at 6 pm on Saturday.

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