Rebel Rousers

AP

If stopping John Clay was hard enough for the Running Rebels, imagine their horror when another 250-pound back named Montee Ball heads their way. The duo combined for four touchdowns and create a potent weapon for opposing defenses.

LAS VEGAS - Even after he and the Wisconsin offense marched right down the field for a 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive to open the 2010 season, junior right back John Clay stood on the sideline, watching teammate Montee Ball carry the load.

When Ball dove into the end zone, helping the UW offense not miss a beat, it spoke volumes of how good the running attack can be this year, regardless of what opponent stands in its way.

In the season opener against UNLV, Wisconsin rushed for a total of 278 yards, 202 of which came from Clay and Ball, as the duo's four combined touchdowns were the difference in No.12 Wisconsin's season-opening win Saturday.

Playing in his first game since recovering from double offseason ankle surgery, Clay got 17 carries, an amount he said was around what he expected to get. He probably didn't expect a 7.2 yards per carry average, as his 123 yards gave him his seventh straight 100-yard game.

"After I got that first contact, I felt pretty good," Clay said. "It felt good to show them what we are all about, establishing the run game right away."

After missing the first four games of last season due to a injuries and a family death, Ball took the encouragement of his head coach to still focus on contributing during the season, After starting slow to get his feet wet, Ball broke out with 336 yards in his final five games his freshman year, emerging as the legitimate number two back.

Feeling like he had more to gain to become an all-around player, Ball approached the offseason wanting to enhance his capabilities and his strength in order to provide an added component supplement to Clay.

"The film that I did over the summer and the work that I put in, I feel like it's going to pay off," Ball said. "I just lower the pads and just keep running and moving my feet."

Not only did Ball spend ample time doing agility drills with new Strength Coach Ben Herbert, he gained upwards of 25 pounds, helping him withstand the physicality of the Big Ten and take charge of any size advantage.

"They are really good at what they do and if you start getting out of gaps and not playing things soundly … it creates problems," UNLV Head Coach Bobby Hauck said. "There are times when we played it well and times when they made us look bad."

Each of UW's three running backs, true freshman James White included, had a play or plays that made the Running Rebels hang on for dear life. More importantly, the success they had kept the others fresh, which made for a lot of cheering of one another on the sideline.

"The pleasure we have there is I think they are all of them are selfless players," Head Coach Bret Bielema said. "They cheer for each other. They all have little bit different skill sets. I give my hats off to John. He had to take a couple IVs yesterday. He played through some adversity (being) a little bit under the weather. Those guys have a lot of pride."

With the play of Ball, Clay knows that a two-headed monster is harder to tame.

"We can provide a good thing for the offense," Clay added. "We can all run between the tackles, use our speed outside and our different sizes throw a changeup at the defense. He's a lot shorter than me, so he can squeeze through a lot of places that I can't."

The duo also knows that there is a precedent for two running backs to have supreme success within the Wisconsin offense, as Terrell Fletcher and Brent Moss became standouts during their four-year career (1991-94). With Moss running for 3,428 yards and Fletcher racking up 3,414 yards, making UW's running game one of the hardest in the country to stop.

With its dominant performance against UNLV and a five veteran offensive linemen clearing the path, the two-headed running game want to try and equal their predecessors.

"There aren't any steps that are going to be missed with the other guys that are in," Clay said. "We have a chance to be a good unit."

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