Ball, Badgers off and running in big half

September, 1, 2011
9/01/11
9:42
PM ET
There will be games where Wisconsin needs quarterback Russell Wilson to be the difference maker.

This is not one of them.

Wilson has looked very solid in his debut, showing good mobility in the pocket and a strong arm on passes to his wide receivers. He ended a near spotless first half against UNLV with a career-long 46-yard touchdown sprint, displaying the new element he brings to an already powerful Wisconsin offense.

Still, the supporting cast, namely running back Montee Ball, stole the show as the 11th-ranked Badgers lead UNLV 37-3 at halftime. Wisconsin scored on all six of its first-half possessions as the offensive line mauled the Rebels.

Ball, who rushed for 777 yards and 14 touchdowns in his final five games last season, continues to produce at a high rate but looks like a new back, thanks to his slimmed-down frame. His improved stamina and desire to stay on the field showed after he took a short pass, raced 63 yards to the UNLV 3-yard line and then stayed in the game to score the ensuing touchdown. The junior racked up 129 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns on 11 touches in the half, staking Bennett's fantasy team to an early lead.

One of my fantasy ream running backs, Wisconsin's James White, added 60 rush yards and a touchdown to go along with a 40-yard reception.

Neither Bennett or I drafted Wilson, which could be a mistake as the senior completed 8 of 11 pass attempts for 206 yards and a touchdown to go along with the rushing touchdown. Aside from two overthrows to open tight ends, Wilson looked terrific. Receivers Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis look like they're benefit a lot from having Wilson on the field.

UNLV isn't very good, and we might not get a true read on how strong the Badgers offense can be until Nebraska comes to Madison on Oct. 1. Oregon State provides a decent test next week.

If there's a concern for Wisconsin, it's a defense that allowed three strong UNLV drives and 105 rush yards. Although the defensive line stepped up late in the half, the Badgers clearly miss J.J. Watt and might need to get creative with how they blitz linebacker Chris Borland and others. It'll be interesting to see what coordinator Chris Ash dials up in the second half.

The outcome isn't in doubt, so we'll get to see plenty of personnel in the final 30 minutes.

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