With 5:11 remaining in the fourth quarter against Nebraska, Montee Ball rumbled into the end zone to give the Badgers a 48-17 lead. It was Ball’s fourth touchdown of the day and his 13th rushing touchdown (14th overall) of the season in only five games.
That 13th touchdown moves Ball into record-setting territory. Since 2000 — as far back as the data at Sports-Reference goes — no FBS player has scored more than 13 rushing touchdowns in his team’s first five games. Ball’s 13 touchdowns ties him with Dwone Hicks of Middle Tennessee State and Chester Taylor of Toledo, both who achieved the feat in 2001. Ball’s 14 overall touchdowns puts him just behind these two players, who each compiled 15, but Ball’s 14 is the most of any BCS-conference player and the most of any FBS player since Bowling Green State’s Josh Harris recorded 13 in 2002.
One would think Ball has a very good chance of taking over the top spot for rushing touchdowns through six games in the new millennium — the record, co-held by Louisville’s Michael Bush in 2005 and Air Force’s Chance Harridge is 15. With the Badgers’ next game coming against a very weak Indiana team — one that looks inferior to the squad that gave up 83 to Wisconsin last season — it wouldn’t be shocking to see Ball put up the three rushing touchdowns necessary to overtake Harridge and Bush.
Bush also holds the mark for overall touchdowns through six games with 16, and with Ball at 14 overall touchdowns, that is an imminently reachable goal.
The overall mark for rushing touchdowns since 2000 is held by UCF’s Kevin Smith, with 29 in 2007 — that same year, he rushed for 2,567 yards; both numbers pale next to Barry Sanders’s 2,628 yards and 37 TDs for Oklahoma State in 1988. With potentially eight games remaining for Ball, he has a chance, albeit an outside one, at passing Smith. Sanders’s record — both of them, really — should be safe for quite a while. Even if a back with Sanders’s talent comes around again, the focus of the game has shifted so to the passing game it would be surprising to see anybody put up numbers that gaudy again.
Even if he has been overshadowed a bit by Russell Wilson (and understandably so), Montee Ball is on a record touchdown pace. The presence of James White and Russell Wilson may mean a few touchdowns go elsewhere over the rest of the season, but regardless, Ball is poised to put up a historical scoring season for the Badgers.