Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Gordon, rushing attack heed lesson from down game


At first glance, Wisconsin’s 37-3 win over Western Illinois three weeks ago did not seem much out of the ordinary.

Although the Badgers rushed for only 167 yards as a team, that number didn’t heavily back the general trend, even for a program that prides itself on its running game. Just last year, Wisconsin had rushing totals below 200 yards in three of its 14 games, including a season-low 104 against Ohio State.

However, with some change to the football team’s offense under second-year head coach Gary Andersen, few expected the drastic results that emerged from from the Badgers’ second game of the season.


The player hyped as a preseason Heisman candidate and the Badgers’ number one option at running back, redshirt junior Melvin Gordon, was nearly invisible that Saturday. Rather, the game’s leading rusher, in terms of yards gained, was redshirt junior quarterback Tanner McEvoy.

“Me having that bad game really opened my eyes to a lot of things,” Gordon said. “It just shows you, you have a bad game and not many people are on your side.”

The Western Illinois defense clogged the box with up to 10 defenders in that game and Gordon had little room to work with all afternoon on the way to 38 net yards rushing, 21 of which came on one play.

As for his only touchdown that game, it resulted from a pass of eight yards.

“I just felt like it was one of those days where you got to get what you can get,” Gordon said. “I tried to be as effective as I can in the passing game. I tried to help out there and make some explosive plays that way. Sometimes you get those days where there’s nothing you can do, but you got to make plays and be effective a different way.”

But the lack of success in the running game for Gordon provided a humbling and valuable educational experience for him that couldn’t be taught, not even by his predecessors Montee Ball and James White.

It was something Gordon had to do for himself.

“It’s just a different form of adversity being a starting running back and things not going your way and having a bad game,” he said.

“I had a bad game as a leader. It’s been tough to try to overcome that for the first time, but I responded and I got to keep responding to every game. I’ve learned a lot of things being in this position now, learning some things that I haven’t learned before.”

Gordon responded on the field. After a bye week two weekends ago, he resumed play at Camp Randall in style with his best rushing performance of his career last Saturday against Bowling Green. Thirteen carries, 253 rushing yards and five touchdowns later, Gordon had returned to the form which had garnered him so much attention.

But he wasn’t the only one to have success last Saturday as the entire rushing attack, including fellow running back sophomore Corey Clement, broke free for the most single game rushing yards in program history with 644.

Clement acknowledged that the whole group had something to prove after the poor showing against Western Illinois, Gordon added.

“I just think he wanted to take that step forward and play his football that he knows,” Clement said of Gordon. “He’s been here for four years, and he knows how to dominate this offense. He showed for it last week, and hopefully he can keep progressing.”

That determined mindset not only propelled Gordon and sparked the Badgers’ rushing attack this past Saturday against Bowling Green, but it also helped him work through the disappointment from the game against Western Illinois.

“He’s got the same mindset every single day,” running back coach Thomas Brown said. “He gets frustrated at times when we don’t have production, but he shows up and works every single day, whether he runs for 12 yards or 150 yards.”

Even if Gordon had a game with 12 yards, the depth Wisconsin has at running back means that even a bad game for him could mean a good game for one of the other backs like Clement.

As has been the case with a rotating group of backs over the last several years, the jostling for playing time gives the Badgers a battle that few other schools benefit from. It also leads to big games for the whole group of backs, not just a monstrous game for the go-to guy in Gordon.

“Practice makes our games come easier because of the competition that we have. I believe no one else in the country has it like us,” Clement said. “The camaraderie that we share is something special and great. We always want to be better than the next guy. I want to be better than Melvin. He wants to be better than me. That’s just the competition that we bring about in this group.”

Although the eye-popping output against the Falcons may have put the rushing attack in elite company, both Gordon and Clement made it clear there’s more to the season than just one performance.

And despite the offense changing slightly in favor of a dual-threat quarterback with McEvoy, contributing more with his legs than has been the norm for Wisconsin in the past, the power game and Gordon’s place as the focal point of the offense won’t disappear again anytime soon.

“Because of that [game], we’re sharper mentally, and we’re working a lot harder because we don’t want to put that product on the field anymore,” Gordon said.

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