MADISON, Wis. (AP) Corey Clement's return from sports hernia surgery has been as much a mental test as a physical one.
The Wisconsin running back is still sore, to be sure. But Clement said that the surgeon has also told him that he can't reinjure himself.
So far, so good, at least after one game.
The doctor said it was ''just how much pain tolerance you can take ... If you can go, go. If not, it sucks,'' Clement recounted with a laugh on Monday.
The rushing attack at Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) is on the upswing again thanks to Clement's performance in his first game since the season opener against Alabama on Sept. 5. It has been more than five weeks since he had the surgery.
Describing himself at 85 percent healthy, Clement rushed for three touchdowns and 115 yards on 11 carries in three quarters against Rutgers on Saturday.
He and coach Paul Chryst remained cautious when asked about how much the running back will be monitored in practice ahead of this weekend's game at Maryland.
''He had work days, and then how do you come back from those work days,'' Chryst said. ''I think you've got to let the body guide you, and I feel good with what we've been doing and how we've approached ... whatever we've got to do that day to make it the best day.''
It was quite a day on Saturday against the clearly overwhelmed Scarlet Knights.
A rushing attack that that uncharacteristically chugged along in fits and starts all season found its groove. The Badgers' most elite offensive player, Clement offers an ability to burst through narrow holes that no other back on the roster has shown as of yet.
He learned from the best last year backing up Heisman Trophy runner-up Melvin Gordon. With Clement back, an offensive line that has been constantly reshuffled because of injuries looked good and improved as the game wore on.
''I think Corey is - he has those talents that can make the team better,'' Chryst said.
He's the type of running back that can force a defense to bring an extra defender into the box, which in turn could lead to more opportunities for receivers in single coverage in the passing game.
''He really gives us some good balance,'' quarterback Joel Stave said. ''Shows some patience on some runs. It's fun to have him back out there.''
Returning to play was all about how much pain Clement could endure, and how much time he put into rehab. Every step he takes for the last few games of this season could also affect his future and NFL draft prospects.
''It's really hard not to think about it, but I can't really be too selfish at this point,'' Clement said. ''I've got to think about now, this team ... finishing this season strong.''
In a best case scenario, Clement would have been well on his way to a 2,000-yard season to potentially follow Gordon as an early entry into the draft.
''If I can prove to everybody with the last amount of games I have left and still put up tremendous numbers with the help of my guys, i think that's a statement,'' Clement said. ''I'm going to keep going until the wheels fall off.''
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