LOS ANGELES —
Ball, who won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back this season, has scored 82 touchdowns — more than anybody in FBS history.
Taylor is merely the leading rusher in Stanford history — and one score shy of becoming the school’s career touchdowns leader — as an incredibly durable performer who almost never leaves the field when the Cardinal have the ball.
Yet neither Ball nor Taylor started his college career as the main man, instead winning their starting jobs through persistence and hard work.
Taylor was a backup to Toby Gerhart as a freshman, getting just 56 carries. He was overshadowed for most of his first three seasons on The Farm with Heisman contenders Gerhart and Andrew Luck in the same backfield before getting the spotlight this year — and even then, he was overshadowed on the West Coast by fellow Pac-12 ball-carriers Kenjon Barner at Oregon, Ka’Deem Carey at Arizona and Johnathan Franklin at UCLA.
Yet Taylor broke Darrin Nelson’s Stanford career rushing record in the Pac-12 title game, getting 78 more yards to give him 4,212 in his career. With a touchdown against Wisconsin, he’ll break his career tie with Gerhart at 44 TDs.
“I don’t worry about people paying attention to me as long as we’re winning games, because that’s all you can control,” Taylor said.
Ball played behind John Clay as a freshman and in a three-back combo with Clay and James White as a sophomore. Ball was frequently the third option in that troika in 2010, particularly when he didn’t even play in a win over Ohio State, a setback that left him contemplating a transfer or moving to linebacker.
“I learned a lot about distractions during my career, and that helps you when you get in a situation like the Rose Bowl where you need focus,” Ball said.