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Wisconsin football: Dare Ogunbowale, Alec Ingold embrace position changes

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Early in the 2014 season, Dare Ogunbowale made the switch from defensive back to running back. Just a month ago, Alec Ingold made the move from inside linebacker. Now, those decisions are paying dividends for both players and the Badgers.

Dare Ogunbowale leaping over the pile in Wisconsin's win over Purdue on Saturday.
Dare Ogunbowale leaping over the pile in Wisconsin's win over Purdue on Saturday.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In their 24-7 victory over Purdue on Saturday, the Wisconsin Badgers' offense found the end zone three times, all via the ground attack.

However, none of those touchdowns was scored by a highly touted recruit.

One of the two players to find the end zone was labeled a two-star recruit coming out of high school. The other? Good luck even finding a recruiting profile on him.

To top off the already unlikely story that unfolded at Camp Randall Stadium on Homecoming, both players started their careers at Wisconsin on the other side of the ball.

When freshman Alec Ingold and redshirt junior Dare Ogunbowale combined for all of three of the Badgers' touchdowns against the Boilermakers, it was both the culmination and merging of two unlikely stories.

"Three months ago, no one was asking about me, no one was wanting to know what I was doing on a Saturday night."

"Three months ago, no one was asking about me, no one was wanting to know what I was doing on a Saturday night," Ingold said.

Three months ago, Ingold was a scout-team inside linebacker. By Wisconsin's third game of the season, the former state Gatorade Player of the Year was officially listed at running back.

The news was delivered to Ingold via a phone call from defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. He told Ingold he had enjoyed working with him on defense, but it was time to pass him onto the offense. The next day, head coach Paul Chryst announced Ingold as scout-team player of the week before informing the team he would be switching to the offensive backfield.

"I just thought that would be best for me and obviously I have to trust the coaches," Ingold said. "They aren't going to put me in harm's way for their own self worth or anything. They put the players first, so I just trusted him in his decision."

An injury to junior running back Corey Clement had already thinned the Badgers at the position when one of his replacements, redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal, was forced to miss time with an ankle injury. Just weeks after converting, Ingold was pressed into duty.

Against Purdue, Ingold finished with just 19 yards on nine carries, but scored two pivotal touchdowns for a team struggling to finish in the red zone. The first was a 4-yard scamper off right tackle where the Green Bay product broke the goal line untouched. The second required a much more arduous effort.

On 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line with Wisconsin holding onto an unconvincing 17-7 fourth-quarter lead, Ingold took the handoff from quarterback Joel Stave and was promptly greeted by the Wall of Jericho.

Met at the 5-yard line by two Purdue defenders, Ingold sidestepped to the right past the first and tore through the arm tackle of the second. Hit front-on at the 3, Ingold spun through the tackle and used every ounce of his 237-pound frame to carry three Boilermakers into the promised land.

Consider Ogunbowale impressed with Ingold's run.

"That second touchdown, that was something special to watch."

By the time Ingold took the ball, he had no time to think with multiple defenders in his face.

"I wasn't really thinking much," he said. "It was all instincts at that point. I just had to do what the coaches trusted me to do on fourth down, was get in the end zone."

That trust came partially from Ingold's pedigree as an offensive standout at Bay Port High School, where he rushed for 4,208 yards and 61 touchdowns. He was originally committed to play quarterback at Northern Illinois before flipping to become an inside linebacker at Wisconsin.

In transitioning from scout-team linebacker to the Badgers go-to short-yardage back, Ingold had the benefit of a man who had been in his same shoes in Ogunbowale.

"I'm making sure I'm like a big brother to him," Ogunbowale said. "I love to watch him play. That second touchdown run was a very special run. I like watching him, so definitely any time he has a question, I'll make sure I help him out and answer it. It's exciting, it's exicting. I like to see him grow."

A soccer standout in addition to playing defensive back at Marquette High School in Milwaukee, Ogunbowale passed up offers to score goals in college in an effort to chase his goal of walking on at Wisconsin. When he arrived in 2012, message boards weren't lighting up with his name, and, by his third season with the team, he was still buried in the depth chart at cornerback.

During a speed and space drill, then-head coach Gary Andersen took note of Ogunbowale's ability to make other defensive backs miss and gave the then-redshirt sophomore a chance to decide if he wanted to move to running back.

Ogunbowale's openness to moving, as well as injuries at other positions, made him the third tailback on the Badgers' depth chart. He finished the season with 193 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries to go along with a Sports Illustrated profile that wasn't quite about him.

When Deal went down in the Badgers' 23-21 win over Nebraska, the offense -- already without Clement -- was left with two running backs that never expected to be college running backs. In a tight contest, Ogunbowale ran for 117 yards on 18 carries and Ingold plowed through the line for a one-yard touchdown to give the Badgers a fourth-quarter lead.

It was only Ingold's third career game and Ogunbowale's first time as the primary feature back. They, to quote Drake, went zero-to-100 real quick.

"Dare, he took me under his wing right away," Ingold said. "It was a comfortable feeling in the room. He's a great guy and great leader, someone I look up to."

In just one month at the position, Ingold has impressed the Badgers with his ability to learn on the go.

"He's worked hard for it and he's earned it," Ogunbowale said. "He asked me a lot of questions about how I dealt with the change and stuff like that. He's doing great and making some big plays for us."

Ogunbowale led the Badgers in rushing against the Boilermakers for the third time this season, finishing with 66 yards on 18 carries. His 4-yard touchdown on the last play of the third quarter put Wisconsin up by two scores, giving the Camp Randall faithful more of a reason to jump around. With six catches for 51 yards, he went over 100 yards from scrimmage for the second consecutive week.

This season, he has already toted the rock 95 times, picking up 482 yards and four touchdowns. He is also Wisconsin's third-leading receiver with 20 catches for 160 yards. In four games, Ingold has 93 yards and three touchdowns on 24 attempts.

Not bad for a former walk-on cornerback and a two-star inside linebacker.

"We're playing like running backs should play."

"We switched over out of need, both of us, and we're making sure we're taking advantage of our opportunities," Ogunbowale said. "We're playing like running backs should play, so we all want to score and make sure we take advantage of that."

Ingold believes the willingness of himself and Ogunbowale to switch positions is indicative of the program as a whole.

"It's a great testament to the people that Wisconsin brings in as recruits," Ingold said. "People don't have egos, they kind of leave their jacket at the door and come to work. Whatever is best for the team, it just shows that's the type of person they recruit."

A similar formula has been pivotal for both players in finding success at tailback.

"It shows how some hard work and a little bit of trust and a little bit of faith can do for you," Ingold said.

The Badgers' backfield won't continue to be a one-two punch of Ogunbowale and Ingold all season, however. Clement, the outright starter coming into the season, was in uniform and back on the sideline against the Boilermakers, and Deal expects to return sooner rather than later.

While Ogunbowale will surely still vie for carries in the backfield, Ingold's workload is much more so hanging in the balance.

Long-term, Ingold said he projects as a fullback, where he will fill the shoes of another former linebacker in Derek Watt.

It will be just another position change for Ingold. Judging by how both he and Ogunbowale have handled the first one, it should come as no problem.