MADISON — During the second quarter on Saturday, fans caught a glimpse of a 242-pound former prep quarterback-turned-collegiate fullback galloping down the sideline, nearly hurdling a defender for Wisconsin’s first touchdown of the afternoon before being forced out of bounds.
So what goes through senior Alec Ingold’s head when a fullback dive, a play used often for success in Paul Chryst’s offense, develops like it did to go for 39 yards in Wisconsin’s 45–14 win over New Mexico?
“Don’t mess it up, I don’t know,” Ingold said with a laugh, noting that the Badgers worked that look all week in practice.
To Badger faithful, the play call really isn’t a surprising move based on Wisconsin’s production at the position group.
Early in his first year as the full-time starter at fullback, Ingold carried the ball only four times during Saturday’s win, but those attempts went for 47 yards and a touchdown. Furthermore, all four went for either first downs or put points on the board.
His big play on the afternoon was that 39-yard run in the second quarter that set up great field position at the New Mexico 18-yard line before Jonathan Taylor fumbled three plays later.
Wisconsin worked out of 22 personnel (two running backs and two tight ends). Ingold took the handoff from Alex Hornibrook, who faked a pitch to redshirt senior running back Taiwan Deal as he carried out the play to the right. With cornerback D’Angelo Ross running past Ingold, the fullback bounced it outside of left tackle Cole Van Lanen and took it to the sideline until a Lobos defender tripped him up despite his Olympian-like hurdling attempt.
Ingold told reporters afterward that he saw the linebackers “bite” and then took the ball outside. One noted to Ingold that there was some open field to run in. The Green Bay native responded with some quick humor.
“I saw all open field, and then I saw it close real fast,” Ingold said with a laugh. “So I got to work on the top-end speed a little bit, I guess.”
Ingold also found the end zone on a one-yard rush in the fourth quarter, something the senior confirmed as a form of fullback sweep. Wisconsin displayed 23 personnel (two running backs, three tight ends), with redshirt junior tight end Kyle Penniston leading the way after lining up as a pseudo-fullback. He noted that the defense was biting down hard, allowing him to get to the outside for the touchdown.
After the touchdown, there were celebrations from teammates on the field, including Van Lanen who lifted him in the air toward the end.
“He told me he'd give me some crap if I didn’t find him if he was on the field, so I had to get that for my homeboy,” Ingold said.
Of course, both are products of Bay Port High School in the Green Bay area.
“I wasn’t the first one there, but he’s like weaving his way through guys, and he’s like, ‘I want you,’” Van Lanen said. “Then he came up to me and we did it, so it was fun.”
Ingold’s two other runs also moved the chains in short-yardage on third and fourth-down situations, and outside of the fullback sweep, three of his four runs were of the dive variation out of that 22 personnel.
Regarding the dive, especially with the success Wisconsin enjoyed with Austin Ramesh over the past couple of years, Ingold explained what makes that seemingly simple call so productive.
“I think it’s we show up in that lineup, that outfit, a bunch, so having all of those different plays out of [the personnel] really helps,” Ingold said. “Just having a little tweak here and there to really open it up.”
In the spring, Ingold said he wanted to “diversify the portfolio” of his roles within the offense. He can block for Taylor and the running backs, he has shown he can reel in touchdown receptions, and as seen on Saturday along with various gamedays throughout his nearly four years in Madison, he can run the ball when called upon.
When asked after Saturday’s win about Ingold’s versatility, quarterback Alex Hornibrook called Ingold a “competitor.”
“I love having him in the backfield because you know in those situations when we need something, we know he can do it—whether it’s a big block or if he gets the ball in his hands,” Hornibrook said. “It was great to see him today playing, and he’s done a great job for us.”
In the fourth quarter, Ingold saw who could be his heir apparent at the position, redshirt sophomore Mason Stokke, enter the game. The Menomonie, Wis., product recently transitioned to fullback from inside linebacker and assumed the duties of the position while carrying the ball twice for six yards.
From the upperclassmen’s perspective, the younger back performed well.
“It was good to see him out there, first game reps,” Ingold said. “He did everything he needed to, fit his guys, was assignment-sound, so that’s all you can ask for from him. It’s going to be a foundation he’s going to build on.”