The last time Taiwan Deal went over the century mark rushing in a game, he was a redshirt freshman rolling over Hawai,i back in Sept. 2015.
Fast forward to last Saturday’s 49-20 win against Illinois—over three years and 19 career games later—he gained over nine yards per rush in obtaining that achievement once again.
You bet he knew the statistics.
“For any running back, getting over 100 yards is big,” Deal told B5Q on Tuesday. “Those are games that you remember in your career, throughout your playing career. So it was great just being out for so long and being able to get 111 yards on 12 carries. It felt really good, boosted my confidence, things like that.”
Deal also scored two touchdowns in the homecoming victory while rushing for his second-highest output. His career high came against the Rainbow Warriors on Sept, 26, 2015, where he recorded 147 yards on 26 carries with two scores as well.
“I loved how he ran,” head coach Paul Chryst said about Deal after the game on Saturday. “I thought he ran behind his pads, and certainly doing some good stuff up front, but I think Taiwan was kind of how he’s been all year.”
Many know about Deal’s collegiate journey and the injuries that have limited xhis Wisconsin career to 23 games heading into Saturday’s match-up against Northwestern (11 a.m. CT, FOX).
This season has become a resurgence for Deal, the Capitol Heights, Md., native from powerhouse DeMatha. He currently ranks second on the team in rushing yards (353) and rushing touchdowns (five) while becoming one of the two complements to Taylor in the Wisconsin backfield along with redshirt sophomore Garrett Groshek (36 carries, 230 yards, 6.4 yards per attempt).
Along with an offensive line doing its part on the line of scrimmage, Wisconsin leads the Big Ten Conference and ranks fourth in the nation in running the ball (282.1 yards per game).
In the blowout win on Saturday, Deal also recorded the fifth multi-touchdown game of his career and second of the season. In the fourth quarter, he would add a six-yard run to cap Wisconsin’s scoring for the afternoon, but a 39-yard touchdown almost halfway through the third came at a most opportune time.
The drive prior to Deal’s big run, Illinois capitalized on an Alex Hornibrook interception as RaVon Bonner scored on an 18-yard touchdown run, closing the Wisconsin lead to 11 at 28-17.
UW’s offense responded thereafter with a six-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Deal breaking through the line and sprinting to the end zone with 8:22 remaining in the quarter.
“The long run he had, that came at a good time for us,” Chryst said. “It was big.”
As a running back on the play, Deal explained what went through his mind, essentially “trusting your landmark and running through the smoke.”
“On that play, I pretty much trusted my landmark and when my landmark wasn’t there, I ran through the smoke and I came back out the backside, or the frontside,” Deal said. “I wasn’t expecting it, but I looked around and saw two dudes and just started striding for the end zone.”
Out of 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends and wide receivers each), Deal took the handoff and looked to initially be amongst a pile of Badgers and Illini jockeying to make a play. Then, Deal busted out into the second and third levels of the defense on his way to the end zone, reestablishing a solid lead for Wisconsin.
“So it’s a zone play,” Deal said when explaining the landmark, “so I mean, really you’re looking at the three-technique. Once you want to cut off that three-technique, once that’s not there anymore, you look for another hole—backside, frontside, whatever. So basically I just look for those landmarks and just trusted it and ran through the smoke.”
Deal mentioned the work put in during fall camp and how keeping your feet moving on contact, running through contact in practice becomes normal. Finding the end zone for the back this season has also become a common experience, with the back tied for second on the team with five touchdowns overall with senior fullback Alec Ingold.
Last Saturday, both Deal and Jonathan Taylor (159 yards on 27 carries) ran for over 100 yards in a game. That was the first time a Badger duo has earned that accolade since Taylor and Chris James accomplished the feat against Florida Atlantic last September.
Taylor—who leads the nation in rushing yards per game (158.4)—saw the play unfold and explained the play and subsequent elation unfolding from his perspective on the sideline.
“It’s something special because you see him in the pile, and you’re like, ‘Alright, nice hard run, keep pumping your legs,’” Taylor said after the game on Saturday. “Then he pops out the backside, and you’re like, ‘Go, go!’ so it really gets us excited as a running back group.
“I know it gets [running backs] coach [John] Settle excited as a coach just to see people to come out the backside running through tackles like that, so it’s always exciting.”