White, Abbrederis going out in style
At most other schools, James White and Jared Abbrederis would be the top attractions. The active career FBS leader in rushing touchdowns and one of the top receivers in the Big Ten.
At No. 22 Wisconsin, they can be overlooked in the shadows of two of the conference's brightest stars in running back Melvin Gordon and linebacker Chris Borland, at least outside Badgers country.
And that's just fine with them as long as the Badgers (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) keep on winning.
“Yeah, I'm used to that,” White said when asked about being overlooked. “I go out there and do what I have to do every Saturday, or out here in practice. Doesn't really matter to me what's said.”
Wisconsin has its second off week of the season, an opportune time for Borland, to rest a sore hamstring. The Badgers will resume play Nov. 2 at Iowa.
Borland wasn't entirely sure if he could go this week if there was a game. But he's certainly aiming to be ready for what should be a bruising contest at Kinnick Stadium.
The first off week was helpful, too, for Wisconsin after the league's leading rusher, Gordon, used the time to get over a minor knee injury suffered in a loss at Ohio State. The Badgers have been rolling since then, with big wins over then-ranked Northwestern and Illinois.
Gordon and Borland certainly deserve the accolades as potentially the best offensive and defensive players in the conference.
But White and Abbrederis have been doing damage, too.
White's 39 career rushing touchdowns lead all active FBS players. It's a little hard to believe that someone so productive could be overlooked.
White led the team in rushing his freshman year in 2010, with 1,052 yards in 12 games, just 40 more than John Clay's total in 11 games. Montee Ball had 996 that year, too.
The previous two seasons, White came in behind Ball for the run-heavy Badgers, even if he never gained less than 713 yards.
More of the same this year, with Gordon racking up yards with his breakaway ability. White has actually started six of seven games, but highlight-maker Gordon has 1,012 and 11 touchdowns to 672 and seven scores for White.
“I don't think (White) takes a back seat to anyone,” Borland said Tuesday. “He's as good a back as we've had. Probably the most consistent player. “He's always the same guy and he's like that off the field. Fairly quiet, easy going.”
Abbrederis says White smiles a lot. White calls Abbrederis “sticks” to tease him about his frame.
What the senior has been doing all year is making big plays on play-action passes and tough catches. Far and away, he's Wisconsin's top receiving threat, yet he's still managed to average 107.4 yards per game over seven games with five touchdowns.
Quarterback Joel Stave has connected with Abbrederis for several long gains down the middle of the field, with the receiver craftily making his way past defenders drawn in for a potential run.
A former walk-on, Abbrederis understands his role. It's run-first at Wisconsin.
“Sometimes, on teams like ours, receivers can get underlooked, especially because we don't throw the ball as much and don't get as many opportunities,” Abbrederis said. “But it's not about that, it's about winning games.”
It sounds a little like the team-wide attitude with the Badgers not showing up in the first BCS rankings of the season. One-loss teams Michigan and Nebraska are in, while the Badgers aren't.
The asterisk on Wisconsin's two-loss season is the bizarre defeat at Arizona State only after officials mishandled the final seconds to deprive the Badgers of a field-goal try.
Borland and Abbrederis said they weren't following the BCS standings, other than that Wisconsin was out for now.
White, though, is paying attention.
“Because that's what really matters at the end of the season,” he said. “It just gives us a little more edge, we've just got to go out there and try to win the rest of our games.”
He's used to getting overlooked.