James White gets redemption at Iowa with 2-TD game
NOV 02, 2013 6:01p ET
White made sure his final memory against Iowa was much happier. During Wisconsin's 28-9 victory Saturday, he carried the ball 19 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns to keep the Heartland Trophy in Madison. The senior now has 43 total touchdowns, which leads all active FBS players.
"It meant a lot," White said. "It's a lot of fun. It's a rivalry game. Those are the types of games you want to play. Play Iowa, Minnesota. Try to keep the trophy at Wisconsin. I got knocked out last time, so I wanted to come out here and finish the game and be out there for my team when they needed me the most.
"We watched the game on film and saw it again. It was an unfortunate injury, but I'm glad I was able to bounce back from it."
Three years ago, White was in the midst of a breakout freshman season -- he would win the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award. But his lowest moment came in the second quarter against Iowa, when he suffered an injury on a crushing hit. White finished that game with just six carries for 10 yards.
In that game, third-string tailback Montee Ball took over for White and scored the game-winning touchdown in a 31-30 victory with 1:06 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was the beginning of Ball's rise to national prominence, as he would become a Heisman Trophy finalist the following year.
White has spent much of his career playing second fiddle, and with teammate Melvin Gordon's stellar first half to this season, White has remained somewhat in the background. The running game Saturday was primarily about White, who rushed for at least 100 yards for the 15th game in his career -- but the first time in which he was the only Badgers tailback to achieve the mark.
Iowa's defense entered Saturday's game having allowed only two rushing touchdowns all season. White's two scores came from 11 yards and 2 yards out, and he went over the 100-yard mark with a 59-yard rush in the fourth quarter.
"It's pretty special," White said. "I wanted to come out here and do whatever I could for my team. I started off pretty slow, but I tried to lock in and come out in the second half and just leave it all out there."
White and Gordon figured to hear plenty of barbs from Iowa's fan base -- White about his injury and Gordon about de-committing from Iowa as a high school senior and picking Wisconsin instead. The fans are especially close to the sideline at Kinnick Stadium, and White said they did their part to rattle the running backs.
"I'm kind of used to it," White said. "The more well you do, the more people are going to talk about you. You've got to tune it out and let our play speak for itself."
White added: "You've got to shake it off, laugh at it. They're going to do it regardless, whether you're winning or losing. If you play well, they'll calm down."
Special teams woes: Wisconsin junior Kenzel Doe leaned against a wall inside Kinnick Stadium and shook his head Saturday afternoon. He was lamenting two mistakes he made on punt return duty during a windy day that nearly cost the Badgers possession on both occasions.
The first occurred with Wisconsin leading 7-6 late in the second quarter. Iowa punter Connor Kornrath hit a short wobbly punt that bounced into Wisconsin territory. Doe tried to signal teammates to stay away from the ball, but it nearly hit Dezmen Southward, who was attempting to block for Doe.
Wisconsin recovered the ball at its own 42-yard-line.
"It was all my fault," Doe said. "Especially on the first one. I thought the ball was going to bounce toward me. I was going to catch it on one hop. It kind of bounced in the air. I was going to go catch it. I thought about it. It was too late of a signal call for Dez to know that I was trying to get everybody away. He was just trying to block for me. That was all my fault."
The second mistake took place early in the third quarter, when Doe misplayed a punt that bounced off his chest and was fumbled away. Southward recovered as the Badgers' 33-yard-line.
Doe said he was not in position for the second kick. Coaches put him between 50 and 55 yards away from the punter, but the kick traveled roughly 40 yards instead.
"It was a little bit worrisome without question," Badgers coach Gary Andersen said. "We all know that. And it's something we need to continue to work on. We haven't had that issue. We've got to go back and talk to Kenzel and talk to ourselves and make sure we're giving him the opportunity."
Badgers punter Drew Meyer also had trouble with the wind Saturday. Meyer punted eight times but averaged only 33.9 yards per attempt because of stiff winds for two quarters. Three of his punts traveled 19, 23 and 27 yards, and he resorted to attempting rugby-style kicks as well.
"There were a couple of times where I hit it well off my foot, I was happy with how it was coming out," Meyer said. "Then all of a sudden it goes 25 yards and comes straight down. So it was one of those we just tried to talk on the sidelines to mix it up, to keep them off their toes as a return team."
Added Andersen: "Two of them I thought he hit well when it came off his foot. It looked like it got slapped right out of the air and just fell straight down. I don't know what to tell a kid on that. Kick it really hard and the wind is going to knock the ball down. ...
"It's a tough kicking venue. He handled those situations good."
Unlucky Russell: Badgers kicker Jack Russell was all ready to celebrate the first made field goal of his young college career, a 54-yarder with the wind that split the uprights against Iowa.
The only problem was that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz had called a timeout before the kick, so it didn't count. Ferentz then burned two more timeouts, and when Russell finally took an official attempt, it fell well short and to the right.
"I didn't hear that," Russell said of the whistle. "I was pretty excited after I made that first one. It felt good and then I heard the whistles blow after I made it. It went in. Felt good. Glad I was able to make a field goal in that type of situation, high-pressure situation. Tell myself that I can. And coaches had confidence in me to kick that field goal. I guess I just didn't put that second one in."
Russell is now 0-for- 4 in his career, with misses last season of 33 yards (UTEP) and 41 yards (Nebraska) and this season of 31 (Tennessee Tech) and 54 (Iowa).
Also on the kicking front, Kyle French made his first appearance in a game since he missed a 38-yard field-goal attempt wide left three weeks ago against Northwestern. French handled two kickoffs during the second half against Iowa, while freshman starter Andrew Endicott handled two as well.
French, a redshirt junior, began the season as the starter on both kickoffs and field-goal attempts but has since been relegated to backup status and won't return to the team next season.
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