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September 25, 2010

Into the great 'White' open

MADISON -- On the Badgers' fourth play from scrimmage Saturday, running back James White missed a blitz pickup that led to a sack on quarterback Scott Tolzien, and a seven-yard loss.

It would be the only loss White was responsible for during the game.

"I knew I had to pick it up from there and just had to be focused in and gain my yards and pick up all the blocks," White said.

"On the blitz, I was waiting for the mike declaration. I missed it, so I needed to look out to my right, I walked up to the line of scrimmage and the guy came right behind my back and sacked him."

White heeded his own advice throughout the rest of Wisconsin's non-conference game against FCS opponent Austin Peay, picking up a career-best and game-high 145 rushing yards on 11 carries with four touchdowns, including one on a 66-yard run down the sideline.

His 13.2 yards per carry was good for the fourth highest yards per carry average in school history.

Simply put, it was a breakout performance for the true freshman.

"He's a special player," Tolzien said. "He can break one at any snap."

With the way he had been praised throughout fall camp by the UW coaching staff and the local media, White's performance also was proof there might be something to all the hype.

After fumbling away a chance at his first career touchdown two weeks earlier, four trips to the end zone against the Governors added a measure of redemption as well for White.

"I wasn't expecting it, I was just going out there trying to gain yards and just happened to break it a couple times and ended up with four touchdowns," White said.

White became the seventh Badger in school history to rush for four touchdowns in a game and the first since P.J. Hill had four on Sept. 15, 2007, against The Citadel. Putting his name alongside an even greater former UW running back, White tied Ron Dayne's record of four touchdowns in a game as a freshman.

With John Clay adding 118 yards on 15 carries, Clay and White gave the Badgers a pair of 100-yard rushers in a game for the first time since Nov. 7, 2009, when Clay and Montee Ball achieved the same feat at Indiana.

Those that have seen White's exploits since early August were impressed by his performance Saturday as well.

They might not have been as surprised as some fans while watching White run right through the Austin Peay defenders, the Wisconsin coaches and players liked the extra dimension White brought to the offense

"I was excited because we thought that first third and short he was going to get that play around the edge," said head coach Bret Bielema. "When we called it, I go, 'Watch him go,' and that's exactly what happened.

"James is a very gifted football player with great speed and again, because he's not out there every down, he comes in with those fresh legs and it really benefits everybody."

While the total yards and touchdowns certainly were impressive, the play that stood out in the game for White was the 66-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

On third down with two yards to go, White took a toss to the left side where he was led by fullback Bradie Ewing blocking the only defender and nothing but green grass between himself and the end zone once he got around the corner.

"I didn't get touched at all," White said. "As soon as I got the ball it was just Bradie and the corner out there. As soon as he cut him, it was just me and the open field, and I just had to run away with it."

Did he sense the Governor defenders trailing close behind?

"I felt somebody coming as I got a little slow towards the end," White said. "He dove at my feet, I felt him miss and I was like, 'Thank goodness.'"



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