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Clay, White run over Gophers

October 12, 2010

MADISON – If there were any question who was the No. 1 running back at Wisconsin, John Clay answered them emphatically Saturday afternoon against Minnesota. But James White continued to show he was not far behind.

As the freshman White made a name for himself over the last two weeks earning Freshman of the Week honors in the Big Ten, questions mounted concerning Clay’s effectiveness out of the backfield. Some even called for White to be named starter.

On Saturday, the duo combined to put together the most complete performance by the Wisconsin running game yet this season. On 40 carries, they picked up 229 yards — a 5.7 yards per carry average — with five touchdowns.

“Those guys ran hard today,” said tight end Lance Kendricks, who provided a number of key blocks for Clay and White. “Overall, I think this was the best game that they’ve had as a balance of two running backs.”

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema talks about going with the hot hand at running back. But when both backs are picking up more than five yards per carry, the hot hand is whoever is in the backfield on a given play.

If you ask either Clay or White, they’ll both tell you they don’t care who gets the carries, as long as the offense is successful.

“I really just like that it’s just constantly rolling through there,” Bielema said. “They’re the first ones to congratulate each other. It’s special.”

Clay, who had one of his best career rushing performances at Minnesota last year, opened the running game up early, tallying 52 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown in the first quarter. He would not touch the ball again in the half.

In the third quarter, Clay and White each added another touchdown, but it was not until the fourth quarter that they really tacked on the yardage. After rushing for 122 yards through three periods, they combined for 117 in the fourth quarter alone, while each also added another touchdown.

“There’s no slack when one of us comes out of the game,” White said. “If Clay comes out and I go in, there’s no slack. If I go out, Montee (Ball) goes in. We’re all in there cheering for each other and we’re all capable of doing big things.”

With three touchdown runs, Clay tied a personal best, while boosting his career total to seven trips to the end zone against Minnesota. With 37 career rushing touchdowns, Clay ranks fifth all time at UW.

Clay also eclipses the 3,000-yard mark on the ground, making him the eighth running back in school history to go over 3,000 yards. His 3,093 rushing yards also rank eighth in UW history.

Tallying his second career 100-yard rushing game, White now has 361 yards and eight touchdowns in his last three games. Saturday also marked the second time in those three games that Clay and White have both rushed for at least 100 yards.

In three games against Austin Peay, Michigan State and Minnesota, Wisconsin’s running back duo has rushed for 670 yards and 12 touchdowns on 93 carries. With the power of Clay and White’s speed, opposing defense have had their hands full stopping the Badgers rushing attack.

“I’m a power runner, he’s a speed guy,” Clay said. “They don’t expect it. He’s a lot shorter guy than I am, so he’s able to use his agility and hide behind offensive lineman. For me, I’m a bigger guy, so it’s hard for opponents to come try to tackle me down.

“When we get out there able to showcase our talent, we’re always there to show each other support and love.”

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