MADISON - With one more game left to play and an offense that has already broken school records for rushing touchdowns in a season (46) and points in a season (520), it’s no surprise that Wisconsin’s high-powered offense and its running game was well recognized by the Big Ten Conference.
The Badgers had three first-team All-Conference selections on offense and freshman running back James White became the second straight Badger to earn Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, following linebacker Chris Borland was honored last season.
“It means a lot to me, just showing off the hard work that I put in,” said White on the Big Ten Network’s selection show. “It’s just not me. It’s having a great team as a whole. It starts with them. I am just a freshman here and I just wanted to contribute to the team.”
White started slow, but ended with a bang, going over 100 yards in the last three games and leading Wisconsin (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) and ranking fifth in the Big Ten in rushing with 1,029 yards. White ranked fourth in conference play with 108.6 rushing yards per game. For all games, White averaged 7.0 yards per carry with 14 rushing touchdowns.
“I didn’t know if I was going to redshirt or not, so I just went into camp with a full head of steam and worked as hard as I possible, listened to what all the coaches were telling me, get in the film and try to be a better football player,” White said. “All my hard work paid off and gave me an opportunity to get on the field.”
Seniors Lance Kendricks, Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt all were consensus first-team All-Conference selections by the coaches and the media while Carimi was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year.
Carimi, who joins tackle Chris McIntosh (1999) and guard Jeff Dellenbach (1984) to win this award from UW, was part of an offensive unit that led the Big Ten with 45.2 points and 242.2 rushing yards in conference games only. The Badgers are just the second team since at least 1936 to average more than 45 points in conference play after Penn State averaged 48.1 points per contest in 1994.
In all games, Wisconsin leads the Big Ten and is tied for fourth nationally with 43.3 points per outing while also ranking among the top 20 nationally in rushing offense (12th) and total offense (18th).
Carimi, a finalist for the Outland Trophy, has started 48 games in his career, including the past 32 games in a row. All of his starts have come at left tackle as he replaced Joe Thomas, the only Outland Trophy winner in school history.
He joins Kendricks as an AFCA All-American, one of only four schools to have two players on the team and the first time the Badgers have had two players on the team since Ron Dayne and Chris McIntosh in 1999.
John Clay, who was slowed by injured at tail end of the season, was a consensus second-team selection while White joined White on the media’s second team and Scott Tolzien was named to the second team.
Tolzien has completed 74.3 percent of his throws on the season, breaking the Big Ten and school record of 67.8 percent set by Darrell Bevell in 1993. Tolzien was honored three times by the Big Ten Conference, including last weekend after connected on 15 of 19 passes for 230 yards and four touchdowns, finishing with a pass efficiency rating of 250.1 ranks fifth in Badger history.
While the Badgers were all about offense, Wisconsin certainly got noticed on defense. Junior defensive end J.J. Watt was a consensus first-team All-Conference selection while junior cornerback Antonio Fenelus was a first-team selection by the media. Junior safety Aaron Henry was a section-team selection by the media.
Take one look at his performance Saturday and one sees why Watt is so important to Wisconsin’s defense. The junior finished with seven tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack, forced two fumbles, both of which were recovered by Wisconsin, and recorded three quarterback hurries, all of which resulted in interceptions for the Badgers. The Wisconsin native also blocked an extra point, his third of the year.
If it wasn’t for Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan, who ranks among the top two nationally in sacks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles per game, Watt probably would be defensive player of the year. Kerrigan is the first defensive tackle to win the award since Jeff Zgonina was honored by the media in 1992.
Leading Michigan State to the school’s first 11-win season and first conference title in 20 years, not to mention overcoming a heart attack after the thrilling Notre Dame win, Coach Mark Dantonio won the Big Ten's Coach of the Year award.
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year after being the first quarterback in NCAA history to rush and pass for more than 1,500 yards in a season.