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December 4, 2011

Notes: Ball keeps rolling

INDIANAPOLIS - As Montee Ball was in the midst of scoring four touchdowns - - he now has 38 on the season - - in the inaugural Big Ten championship game, NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders was acknowledging the continuation of a historical season.

"Just want to congratulate M. Ball no matter what happens," Sanders said on Twitter. "Records are made to be broken. A season is a season. If anyone breaks any of my records I will be the first to congratulate them."

Sanders scored 39 touchdowns during his final season at Oklahoma State in 1988. His record has stood strong for 23 years, but with four more scores in Saturday night's 42-39 win over Michigan State, Ball needs just one touchdown to tie and two to break it.

"I had no idea," Ball said when asked about Sanders' tweeting about him. "It's Barry Sanders. I mean, come on. Of course I've heard of him growing up and I watched a little tape of him, but being mentioned with him and him talking about me, what else can you ask for?"

Ball rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns. He also completed a 32-yard pass to Russell Wilson and reeled in three passes for seven yards and a touchdown. He wasn't named game MVP for his performance, but it didn't matter.

He opened the game by rushing for 105 yards in the first quarter of play. From that point on Michigan State shut down the Badger rushing game, but Ball still played an integral role in UW's win.

"After a couple of runs were stopped I really took it to heart," Ball said. "I told myself I have to make some plays and I really wanted to put the offense on my back."

What they're saying about the catch:

When Wilson somewhat desperately bombed the football in the direction of sophomore wide receiver Jeff Duckworth, it looked as though it was going to take some sort of supreme athletic ability to reel the ball in.

It looked as though UW was just a mere number of seconds away from turning it over on downs. Then Duckworth, one of the more unassuming players on the roster, made one of the biggest plays of his young football life.

His teammates and head coach Bret Bielema were talking about it following the win.

"The progression that he went through wasn't there," Bielema said. "We thought maybe he could scramble. They flashed. He threw it down the field and knew where Duck was going to be.

"A common saying that we've been using quite a bit over the last three or four weeks is 'those who are humbled will be exalted and those who are exalted will be humbled.'

"I thought that play right there gave justice to everything."

Jared Abbrederis on the catch:

"I was on the other side of the field so I was kind of able to see him catch it. Hats off to him. He's been doing some great things for us this whole year. There's not a lot of guys that knew about him because he was our third receiver. We see him in practice everyday making plays. To see him go do that in a game…I mean, I was so happy for him."

Bradie Ewing on the catch:

"I was standing next to coach [db]Thomas Hammock. I think Russell had some pressure on him. I saw him scramble around a little bit and then he kind of heaved it up. There were three or four guys there and I thought they might call pass interference. But he made a spectacular catch. All the credit to him."

Russell Wilson on the throw:

"You thought it was a duck? I thought it was pretty good. I went through my progression, trying to remember who the receivers were exactly and who were in the game. We run so many plays, it's kind of hard to remember. But I just went through my progression. I kind of skipped out of the pocket to the left. I thought I could run for it possibly, and they pursued me.

"I knew Duckworth was running deep back to the back corner, and that was my only shot, really and I just gave him a shot. I knew he would come down with it once I put it up in the air. It was a pretty spectacular play."

Konz was close:

Peter Konz did not play during Saturday's win over Michigan State. He did, however, dress and participate with the team during warm-ups. He was close to playing and fully anticipates his ankle will be healthy enough to play in the team's upcoming Rose Bowl.

"One of the things that kind of hinders me is the inability to take the shot," Konz, who is allergic to ibuprofen and cortisone shots, said. "Or anything else that would really numb the pain. So I can't go out and do what other guys do if they're feeling a little bit injured. If I wanted to I probably could have gutted it out.

"That was one of my roles today. If someone went down and we needed me I would have gone out."

Team Notes:

-Wisconsin had 69 drives in the red zone this season. It scored on 60 of those, including a perfect 4-for-4 performance against Michigan State.

-UW has had 71 plays of 20 or more yards this season, including five in the Big Ten title game.

-Ball finished the regular season portion of the schedule 2-for-2 passing with 57 yards and a touchdown, including his 32-yard strike to Wilson in the first quarter.

-Ball and Nebraska's Rex Burkhead are the only two backs to crack the 100-yard mark rushing against Michigan State.

-Ball scored four touchdowns against Michigan State. That's the fourth time this year Ball has scored four touchdowns.

-Duckworth's touchdown catch during the first drive of the contest was the first of his career.

-Wilson has thrown 31 touchdowns and only three interceptions during his one and only season in Madison.

-Wilson has thrown a touchdown pass in 37-consecutive games. That is a new NCAA record.

-With yet another interception, junior safety Shelton Johnson has now had one interception in each of the past four games.


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