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Even With Wilson, Badgers Still Boast Run-First Offense

MADISON, Wis. -- There's no denying the fact that Russell Wilson looked great in his Badger debut.

Heck, he put up 317 yards of total offense, the highest total for a Wisconsin quarterback in his starting debut.

But what's most impressive is that he did all that in just 13-pass attempts and two rushes. Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst still kept a leash on his new toy and reminded the country that the Badgers plan on staying true to their run-first identity this season.

Overall, Wisconsin ran the ball 38 times and a big reason why Wilson averaged 25.5 yards per completion was because a lot of them were short dump-off passes to his newly chiseled running backs who had great blocking in front of them.

Montee Ball in particular lost about 23 pounds in the off-season and said he felt noticeably quicker out there Thursday night.

"A lot different, I mean, making people miss," Ball said. "My speed seems a lot better and picking my feet up so it’s a good thing I lost that weight."

Ball showed off his new agility on a 22-yard touchdown run in the first quarter in which he slipped a number of tackles and picked up his feet -- managing to accidentally show the Heisman pose in the process -- to beat the last diving defender and get in the end zone. He finished the game with 64 yards rushing on 10 carries and 130 all-purpose yards.

James White, meanwhile, added some strength in the off-season, but said he felt quicker too. White also gained 64 yards rushing, but on 11 carries, and added 166 all-purpose yards while returning kickoffs. There's clearly a healthy competition between the two and it's making them both better.

"I see (Ball) break a long run, he scores a touchdown, I want to get out there on the next drive and score a touchdown – get me a long run," White said. "I mean, it’s a healthy competition and it’s going to keep a lot of production out there."

White also believes he has a larger target on his back now that teams know who he is and he hopes the running backs' new bodies will help them this season.

"There’s a lot of film on me and Montee out there now," he said. "Now they’re ready for me, but I just have to go out there and show them that they’re not."