- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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We thought we'd be making this statement a lot earlier than we are, but better late than never: Wisconsin's Montee Ball is the Big Ten's player of the week.
After a strong fourth quarter in Wisconsin's Oct. 6 win against Illinois, Ball finally put it all together against Purdue and delivered his best performance of the season and possibly the best of his storied career. He had 29 carries for a career-best 247 yards and three touchdowns as Wisconsin thrashed Purdue 38-14 at Ross-Ade Stadium. More impressive, 194 of Ball's yards came after contact. It was a vintage performance from the 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist, highlighted by a 67-yard scoring run early in the second quarter, the longest run of Ball's career. He averaged 8.5 yards a carry against the Boilers.
Ball broke the Big Ten career touchdowns record held by former Wisconsin star Ron Dayne, his good friend and mentor. With 72 career touchdowns, he needs just seven to break the NCAA career mark held by former Miami (Ohio) star Travis Prentice.
The first half hasn't been what Ball expected, as his production dropped behind an offensive line that went through a coaching change after Week 2 and had some growing pains adjusting to a new system. Ball also missed most of a Week 4 game against UTEP with a concussion. But things seem to be shifting during Big Ten play, as Ball has eight touchdowns and is averaging 152 rush yards. If the current pattern continues, Ball's name should show up in this space a few more times before the end of the season.