Badgers' White eager to redeem himself
Whipping Nebraska on national TV was exhilarating and satisfying for Wisconsin's players and coaches.
The video review was humbling for sophomore tailback James White.
"I really was disappointed," White said. "I know the coaches were, too. I felt like I let down my teammates. I wasn't providing a spark or anything."
White is determined to correct the errors—mental and physical—that marked his play in that game and give a better all-around performance when fourth-ranked UW (5-0, 1-0) hosts Indiana at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Hoosiers (1-5, 0-2) enter the game last in the Big Ten in rushing defense, allowing 210 yards per game.
"I'm very eager," White said. "I'm ready for Saturday to get here and just go out there and show my teammates and everybody else I'm ready to have a great performance."
White entered the Nebraska game averaging 6.7 yards per carry and 75.8 per game this season.
He rushed 11 times for 26 yards and caught two passes for 17 yards against the Cornhuskers. His per-carry average of 2.4 yards was his second-worst at UW.
He averaged 1.7 yards per carry (10 yards on six attempts) at Iowa last season but left that game in the first half after suffering a knee injury.
White's No. 1 goal this season was to be more decisive as a runner and get through the hole more quickly.
It appeared as if White was hesitant against Nebraska, particularly compared to fellow tailback Montee Ball (30 carries, 151 yards and four touchdowns). Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst cautioned that because White got a smaller number of carries appearances might be misleading.
"When you get fewer kicks at the can every one is going to be magnified," he said. "Now I don't know this for a fact but Montee might have missed as many (holes) as James, but then Montee had more at-bats.
"So I caution myself. It is like a quarterback who misses a couple reads. But you get 30 throws so it's not as noticeable."
The video review revealed two issues. White's footwork on zone plays was flawed. And on at least one run, which could have been a big play, he chose the wrong hole.
"My steps on the zone plays were so short that I wasn't even giving myself a chance," White said, adding that Chryst and running backs coach Thomas Hammock pointed that out during the video review.
"It's something I've been trying to correct during the bye week and this week. I can really notice the difference."
In short, White is supposed to move parallel to the line of scrimmage on zone plays to set up his blockers. Against Nebraska, White's first step was sideways, but then he moved too quickly toward the line of scrimmage.
"I was going downhill and the linebackers would come and fill up the holes really fast," he said. "If I come downhill they're going to come downhill. I wasn't giving the play a chance."
The run that could have produced a big gain occurred on UW's fourth play from scrimmage, on first and 10 from the Badgers' 47.
White took a handoff from quarterback Russell Wilson and, with the line slanting to the left, saw a huge running lane off right tackle.
Right tackle Josh Oglesby sealed his man to the inside; tight end Jake Byrne drove his man to the outside; and fullback Bradie Ewing executed a cut-block to drop another defender.
White started into the hole, but instead of accelerating through it, he veered toward the right sideline after seeing safety Daimion Stafford approaching. That allowed Stafford to make an easy tackle and hold White to a 2-yard gain.
If that play didn't tell White he was in for a long night, another play in the second quarter did.
UW faced a third and 2 from its 45 when Chryst called for a shovel pass to White. White made a nice adjustment to cut inside Stafford, who blitzed inside left tackle Ricky Wagner, and took the pass from Wilson. He headed downfield but gained only 9 yards because defensive tackle Jared Crick hustled back and made a diving tackle.
"All I saw was the end zone," White said, "and the guy swiped my feet. I thought: 'Today really isn't my day.' "
White hopes Saturday is.