Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Saturday, May 18
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Wisconsin’s 250-pound RB leads team against an injured IU defense

IU-Iowa Football

John Clay weighs more than every linebacker on IU’s depth chart.

He even comes close to matching 259-pound Hoosier defensive end Jammie Kirlew on the scales.

But the Wisconsin sophomore doesn’t tackle players on the field. He’s the one other defenses tackle.

Well, at least they try.

The big, bruising 248-pound Badger running back anchors the Wisconsin offense. Clay averages 104.9 rushing yards per game and has scored 10 touchdowns – four more than any other running back in the Big Ten.

Last week, Clay torched Purdue for 123 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 37-0 shutout.

His next target: the Hoosiers, when they play at noon Saturday in Memorial Stadium.

Kirlew expects the best from Clay.

“He weighs less than me, but he’s like me running the ball,” Kirlew said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge to make sure you have good form-tackling. You’re not going to shoelace-tackle this guy. You’ll have to wrap him up and bring him down.”

While IU coach Bill Lynch readily admits he does not like comparing players, he can’t help but see a resemblance in Clay to the Badgers’ 1999 Heisman Trophy-winner Ron Dayne.

“I remember 10 years ago coaching against Ron Dayne and what a great back he was,” Lynch said. “(Clay) is just a big, physical guy that has great feet to go with it. You think of the guy as a power runner, but he’s got feet that can make you miss.”

Clay and Dayne each weigh about 250 pounds and overpowered defenses during their college careers. While Clay is only a sophomore, he has totaled 1,723 rushing yards in two seasons. Dayne, meanwhile, finished his career as NCAA’s all-time leading rusher.

With an emphasis on the run game, Wisconsin’s offense has been effective in the red zone. The Badgers have scored on a Big Ten-best 28 of 30 trips inside their opponents’ 20-yard line, including a conference-high 23 touchdowns. Of those, 16 were rushing touchdowns.

The Badgers also top the conference in time of possession, averaging nearly 33 minutes per game.

IU’s first line of attack will be its defensive tackles, freshmen Larry Black and Adam Replogle.

Replogle said not only is Clay physical, but also the Badgers’ offensive line is one of the most physical they will face all year.

“They play gap schemes on the line – their guys versus our guys one-on-one. We just have to beat them,” Replogle said.

Black said they won’t face anyone like Clay all season.

“He’s probably the biggest back we’ll face,” Black said. “But we’re down for the challenge. We just got to hit him low.”

One of Lynch’s concerns is the development of the pass game. If the Badgers establish Clay early, Wisconsin’s efficient quarterback, Scott Tolzien, will have an easier time in the passing game.

Replogle said the Hoosiers’ defensive line, especially with injuries in the IU secondary, will determine if Wisconsin can establish its offense.

“We’ve got to get pressure on the quarterback,” Replogle said. “If we do that, it eliminates the problems because of injuries in the secondary.”

Get stories like this in your inbox