BLOOMINGTON – Wisconsin running back John Clay, the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year, is questionable to play in Saturday’s game against Indiana.
But the Hoosiers know it will be tough to slow down the Badgers’ running game regardless of which player is in the backfield.
They truly try to impose their will on you with their running game, IU coach Bill Lynch said.
Wisconsin ranks 16th nationally in rushing at 216 yards per game. The Badgers average 5.1 yards per carry.
Clay is the team’s top rusher with 929 yards (his 103.2 average is second in the Big Ten to Michigan’s Denard Robinson) and 13 touchdowns. He is recovering from a sprained knee suffered last week at Purdue.
We don’t have anybody that can simulate him in practice, Lynch said. It’s a little bit like trying to simulate Denard Robinson. That is the tough part of it. You can give them all the looks you want but to try and simulate the back, that’s what is very difficult and that’s what makes him very unique.
Indiana ranks ninth in the Big Ten in rushing defense, giving up 166.1 yards per game.
From a defensive standpoint, you have to do a very good job at recognizing formations and making sure that you have all the fits on the defense and the secondary fits against the run game, but you still have to play the pass and the play action, which they do a great job at, Lynch said. To simulate that is very difficult and something that guys will get a feel for it in the first quarter. Fortunately we have quite a few guys that played against him last year, but that is the tough part of it.
James White has 570 yards and nine touchdowns, and Montee Ball has 346 yards and six touchdowns. Clay rushed for 134 yards while Ball added 115 more in the Badgers’ 31-28 victory over the Hoosiers last season.
Each guy is unique but they are all very talented, Lynch said. Most of all, they are hard to tackle. They get behind the line, and they all have good feet. It’s a pretty impressive group.