Wisconsin's James White has unfinished business against Iowa

Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Spor

James White left with an injury during Wisconsin's last game against Iowa in 2010. He's ready to go back to Iowa City and help the Badgers keep the Heartland Trophy before his career ends.

MADISON -- James White often reminds Melvin Gordon about what happened to him in Wisconsin's 31-30 victory at Iowa in 2010. The rest of the team saw it during film sessions this week.

As the Badgers prepare for Saturday's game at Iowa, the senior running back will finally have his first crack at playing the Hawkeyes since spraining his left knee on a nasty hit early in Wisconsin's last game against the Hawkeyes during White's freshman season.

"We've seen the play on film, and it looked pretty bad," Gordon said. "James is really excited to play that game because he got hurt and didn't get to play as much as wanted to. He wants to get back at Iowa. He wants Iowa.

"James will be ready. If I know anything, James will be ready."

White has been ready to suit up and produce for the Badgers nearly every game since coming back from that knee injury in 2010.

In his first three games after returning, White rushed for 459 yards and five touchdowns to close out his freshman season. Now a senior, he's slowly climbed his way to fifth on Wisconsin's all-time rushing list with 3,915 yards.

He's done it with durability and consistency. He's done it with 13 different 100-yard rushing performances. He's done it with a 6.12-yard career average, the highest by any running back in Wisconsin history.

And he's done it without ever being the undisputed No. 1 back in the Badgers' backfield. Sure, he's listed as the starter this season, but Gordon has just one less carry through the first seven games.

It's not a situation that any player of his caliber could handle with ease, especially when sharing a backfield with two others -- Gordon and Montee Ball -- who have received Heisman Trophy hype while White was accumulating his numbers.

"I'm a guy that likes to fly under the radar, to sneak up on people. It just gives a little edge to me." -James White

"It definitely motivates me," White said, "but I'm a guy that likes to fly under the radar, to sneak up on people. It just gives a little edge to me."

The game against Iowa in 2010 was the first and only time White has suffered a serious injury in his football career, although he only missed one more game after the Badgers' win over the Hawkeyes that year. He finished with just 10 yards on six carries.

It's the only game he's been knocked out of, the only game he's been unable to finish. Because of the Big Ten's realignment following the 2010 season, he hasn't had the chance to finish a rivalry game against Iowa his entire career, nor has he been able to put his mark on a victory that earned Wisconsin ownership of the Heartland Trophy.

"It's the last time I get to play Iowa," White said. "It's my senior year, the last time I get to play in this rivalry, and I just want to do everything I can to keep that trophy here."

The Hawkeyes won't make White's return to Iowa City easy, though. They're 24th in the country in rushing defense, giving up just 128 yards per game, and they also rank 12th in total defense.

"The linebackers play really close to the line of scrimmage, and their defensive line, they do a great job of shedding blocks," White said. "If running backs are indecisive, they'll shed the block and make the tackle."

Although one probably can't tell by talking to him, this is likely a little more than just another game for White.

A great performance Saturday from Wisconsin's veteran in the backfield -- in a rivalry game such as this -- could add another piece to a legacy that often gets overlooked.

"He's pretty steady Eddy," Wisconsin running backs coach Thomas Hammock said. "He doesn't get too excited. But I'm sure he wants a chance to go out there and redeem himself. ... I'm sure he's anxious to get out there and give it another shot.

"I think he's been (underrated) since he's been here. I think he's a good player that people overlook because of the flashy new car or the shiny new this. This is a guy that got almost 4,000 yards rushing. He's moving his way up the Wisconsin chart. I call him a consummate pro, a guy that comes to work every day and gets the job done."

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