MADISON, Wis. -- James White and Montee Ball took turns trampling Minnesota, whether speeding past or plowing through.
Wisconsin is running away again, from their tacklers in the Big Ten and from that rough start to the season.
White raced 15 times for 175 yards and three touchdowns, carrying the Badgers to a 38-13 victory over the Gophers on Saturday, the ninth straight time they've paraded around Paul Bunyan's Axe.
"We may not be the sexiest, prettiest things alive, but we do know how to win games and we do know how to play four-quarter football games," coach Bret Bielema said. "It's a lot of fun to coach this group. It's a football team that is getting better every week."
White stole the show for most of the afternoon, but Ball still muscled his way for 166 yards on 24 attempts and two fourth-quarter scores to put the game out of reach and push the Badgers (6-2, 3-1) to their 21st win in a row at Camp Randall Stadium. That's one behind LSU for the longest current streak in major college football. The last time a FBS team had two 150-yard rushers in one game was in January at the Rose Bowl when LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas did so for Oregon against Wisconsin, according to STATS research.
If the Badgers keep playing like this, they'll end up in Pasadena again.
"We're relaxed with energy and having fun again," Ball said. "I believe that's what we started focusing on and carrying it from practice into the games. You can see we're having fun out there."
Freshman Philip Nelson was the surprise starting quarterback for the Gophers (4-3, 0-3). He threw two touchdown passes, but the Badgers turned one interception into a third-quarter field goal. Three plays after his second pick, Ball scored his second touchdown after another spirit-breaking burst through the middle.
"It was really exciting. It felt really great to be out there with my teammates. Coaches made the decision, and I just went with it. I wasn't going to back down from an opportunity like that," said Nelson, who grew up near Madison until moving to Mankato, Minn., before high school. His father, Pat, played for the Badgers in the late 1970s.
Nelson, who was heavily recruited by Bielema, was thrust into action because MarQueis Gray's sprained left ankle wasn't quite right and Max Shortell hurt his neck the week before. He finished 13 for 24 for 149 yards and ran 16 times for 67 yards.
Nelson led a six-play, 65-yard cruise to the end zone in the first quarter, connecting with Brandon Green from 16 yards out for the score. Jordan Wettstein's extra point banged off the right goal post, though, keeping the Gophers from tying the game.
They had played well enough on defense early to keep the game competitive into the third quarter, sacking Joel Stave three times and forcing four punts by the Badgers before halftime. Stave finished 7 for 15 for 106 yards, but that didn't matter.
As the Badgers so often have done, they just kept pounding the ball into the line and watching White and Ball go to work. Sometimes they had to wiggle back and forth to find holes, but they routinely bounced off the first tackler or two. Other carries were much easier, with only the green of the turf and the red of the end zone ahead of them.
"They keep coming at you with those good backs and offensive line. Then once they start wearing you out, somebody gets out of a gap and somebody gets out of a gap and they're strong enough to push you two gaps over," Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said, adding: "That's who they've been for a long time."
The Badgers didn't find their groove until a few weeks ago, after coaching staff changes and uncharacteristic struggles to move the ball in September caused some concern around the state. But they're back on track now, after dominating Purdue with 645 total yards last week.
"We always knew it was there. We always knew we had potential. We had the backs. We had the guys up front, tight ends and fullbacks," left guard Ryan Groy said. "We just weren't executing. It's nice to put something together a couple games in a row to get the run going."
They averaged 6.2 yards per rush, and like any good running backs, Ball and White gave all the credit to the blockers.
"They are all very capable. Whenever someone gets injured, there's always that next guy ready to step in," White said.
The Gophers, relying frequently on draws and zone read runs up the middle by Nelson, didn't do enough to help their defense out. It was only a matter of time that the Badgers were able to tire the Gophers.
After the Gophers were stopped on third-and-1 at the Wisconsin 49 for no gain, Christian Eldred's punt went just 19 yards. And five plays later, White was in the end zone again after a 34-yard burst with 1:49 left stretched the lead to 14-6.