Alvarez not afraid to mess with success

Updated: October 16, 2003, 4:15 PM ET

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin has won four straight games behind backup running backs Dwayne Smith and Booker Stanley.

That won't stop coach Barry Alvarez from starting Anthony Davis against No. 13 Purdue on Saturday.

"Those other backs have done an excellent job, but you're talking about an elite player in Anthony and a guy that can hit a home run for you," Alvarez said.

Davis, the nation's leading rusher over the past two seasons combined, began his junior season by running for 167 yards against West Virginia and 247 yards against Akron.

But he injured his left ankle against UNLV on Sept. 13 and re-injured it against Penn State on Oct. 4. He has carried the ball just 10 times in the last five weeks, missing three of those games altogether.

During that time, Stanley and Smith took turns making sure the 14th-ranked Badgers (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) didn't miss him too much.

Although Davis leads the Badgers with 466 yards rushing, Smith has 460 and Stanley has 454.

Stanley had 125 yards last week, when the Badgers ended Ohio State's 19-game winning streak.

Lee Evans, the Big Ten's top receiver, said he's thrilled to get Davis back against the Boilermakers, who own the Big Ten's stingiest defense, allowing just 13 points and 261 yards a game.

"Book has stepped up in credibly, Dwayne has stepped up incredibly. But Anthony is still Anthony," Evans said. "He's still a very dynamic player. He's still an integral part of this offense.

"It's always good to get him back in the huddle because he brings a whole different aspect to the game."

Boilermakers defensive tackle Craig Terrill, who blocked a field goal in overtime in 2000 to lead Purdue to victory the last time the teams met, said he doesn't care who the Badgers line up in the backfield.

"They have a very good offensive line and some very good running backs. That's precisely the game our D-line and linebackers have been wanting all year," Terrill said. "It's a physical conference, and this is how it's going to be the rest of the way out.

"Our guys like the teams that can run the ball really well. It will be a good test for us."

Purdue (5-1, 2-0), which has won five straight after losing to Bowling Green, will also see the return of Badgers starting quarterback Jim Sorgi.

Sorgi was knocked out of the game last week when Buckeyes linebacker Robert Reynolds jabbed his fingers into Sorgi's throat and choked the prone quarterback after a tackle in the third quarter.

"It was pretty shocking," Sorgi said. "But it was in the heat of the game and things happen."

Sorgi, who was taken to a hospital afterward to get his vocal cords looked at, had to have another player bark out the calls at practice this week.

Sorgi accepted an apology from Reynolds, who was suspended for one game and was the object of nationwide condemnation.

"If I was the quarterback, I'd press charges. That's assault," said Michigan tackle Tony Pape.

Sorgi was more concerned about facing Purdue than going to the police.

"He seems like a good guy," Sorgi said. "I'm sure he regrets what he did. We're all going to move on from here."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index