MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema is hopeful running back P.J. Hill will be available when the Badgers play No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday.
Hill hobbled off the field in the first quarter last Saturday after scoring on fourth-and-1 against Indiana. X-rays on Hill’s left foot and leg after the game showed no broken bones. An MRI exam on Sunday revealed a bruise in the lower leg, Bielema said.
“It was very, very sensitive and sore,” he said. “We’re encouraged that there wasn’t any structural damage, just a bruise and hopefully it’s something we can get through in a short amount of time.”
Hill did not practice Sunday, and players were off Monday before preparing for the Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten). Bielema said he’s not sure when Hill will practice this week.
Wisconsin (7-2, 3-2) went on to beat the Hoosiers 33-3, scoring four touchdowns rushing. But two were from Lance Smith, who is suspended from road games after an altercation this summer and will not play at Ohio State.
If Hill can’t go, the Badgers will have to rely on freshman Zach Brown, who ran for a score against Indiana. He established career highs with 14 carries for 40 yards and has emerged out of a deep running back class from Bielema’s most recent recruiting efforts.
“My feeling is you’re going to see a very excited No. 30, whether he gets one rep, 30 carries, whatever it is,” Bielema said of Brown. Wisconsin relies on its power rushing attack with a line that averages 314 pounds to go along with two big fullbacks, Chris Pressley (259 pounds) and Bill Rentmeester (246 pounds).
Pressley and Rentmeester also were ailing after Saturday’s victory over Indiana, but Bielema said they were fine, too.
“It’s a physical position, the fullback, especially what we’re asking them to do,” Bielema said.
Hill, who slimmed down from a year ago, ran behind the group last season for 1,569 yards and received Big Ten freshman of the year honors. He has 1,066 yards so far this season, and ranks ninth on the Badgers’ career rushing list. He has 29 rushing touchdowns in 22 career games.
After losses to Illinois and Penn State, the Badgers beat Northern Illinois and Indiana by a combined score of 77-6. The defense and an overpowering running game have been the biggest reasons for the turnaround, with the Badgers improving to 36-1 since 1998 when holding a time of possession advantage of at least nine minutes.
Smith, who has 354 yards on 55 carries this season, was expected to again be Hill’s primary backup after running for 345 yards his freshman year. Bielema had seemed hopeful during his weekly TV show Sunday that Smith’s suspension might be lifted, but he said Monday there wasn’t much chance of that happening.
“I don’t think so,” Bielema said. “I’ve been basically in discussions with different university personnel and been told to remain quiet about the issue. So, I’ll remain quiet.”
Smith pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct charges last week. He was charged after a fight with his girlfriend last summer.