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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badgers overcome rough first half in 27-10 win over South Florida

Gordon breaks free for two scores and 127 yards in second half in final non-conference game

Slow starts have plagued the Wisconsin football team lately, and Saturday’s home contest against South Florida began much the same way the previous two home games have.

For the second time in the last three games, Wisconsin scored fewer than 10 points in the first half, but managed to pour it on after halftime to escape a scare from the Bulls for a 27-10 victory.

Badgers’ head coach Gary Andersen explained the slow start as more of players trying to do too much than not being ready to go come kickoff.


“I don’t think we were tight. I don’t think we were prepared poorly. I just think we were pressing,” Andersen said.

South Florida (2-3 overall) scored the game’s first points on a field goal with 6:49 left in the first quarter on a 26-yard field goal from Marvin Kloss. After starting on the Wisconsin 49-yard line, the Bulls drove 41 yards on eight plays, but the Badgers’ defense held tough in the redzone to keep USF to the field goal.

Wisconsin (3-1) tallied a field goal of its own with 52 seconds left in the opening quarter, but neither team had much offensive success in the remainder of the half. The best opportunity came for Wisconsin at the end of the second quarter when the offense drove all the way to USF’s five-yard line with under a minute remaining, trying to take the lead going to the locker room. But the drive got cut short when running back Melvin Gordon coughed up the football with 25 seconds left.

Following the offensive struggles in the first 30 minutes, where Wisconsin had only 139 total yards including just 60 rushing yards on 23 carries, Gordon took matters into his own hands to alter the course of the game.

“I didn’t like the way things were going and that’s why I had to talk to those guys,” Gordon said about his halftime speech to the offense. “It’s my first time stepping up and doing that, speaking to our offensive group as a leader, and it showed. Those guys responded and they listened, and we went out there second half and we were a different team.”

With Gordon leading the charge, Wisconsin took control from the opening play of the second half. Gordon took the first handoff of the second half and rumbled 22 yards to the UW 47 to set the tone for the drive. He then broke into USF territory with a 10-yard gain immediately thereafter.

After two runs went nowhere, Wisconsin got some help from the Bulls with a defensive holding call that kept the drive alive. Quarterback Tanner McEvoy took advantage of the opportunity and completed his next pass to Alex Erickson for 14 yards and another first down. Following a McEvoy scamper for nine yards to the USF 11, Gordon finished the drive that he started with back-to-back rushes, plunging into the endzone on the second to put Wisconsin up 10-3.

The Wisconsin defense forced USF into a three-and-out on its next drive, which again set the stage for Gordon. On the very first play of the Badgers’ next drive, Gordon eluded several tacklers on a run up the middle and broke free for a 43-yard touchdown to put UW up by 14.

But South Florida wouldn’t go away and answered with a quick four-play drive to come back within a touchdown with just under two minutes left in the third quarter.

UW got another field goal from Rafael Gaglianone, but one of the biggest plays of the game came with Wisconsin on defense on the ensuing Bulls’ possession. USF quarterback Mike White completed a pass up the left sideline to fullback Kennar Swanson, who got behind the Wisconsin defense and looked like he might score. But freshman safety Lubern Figaro stayed with the play, caught Swanson from behind at the UW 10-yard line and forced a fumble which Wisconsin recovered.

South Florida had the opportunity to get the game back to one possession, but the pivotal turnover swung the momentum in Wisconsin’s favor for good.

“Those are the plays that change games, and those are the plays that oftentimes change seasons. You have to have a few of them,” Andersen said.

Wisconsin then marched down the field on one of its more impressive drives of the season, eating nine minutes and 33 seconds off the clock on a 18-play drive. McEvoy capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown pass to Sam Arneson for his only throwing score of the day.

With just over five minutes remaining in the game, South Florida had too big of a deficit and not nearly enough time to mount a comeback. Wisconsin forced another three-and-out and then ran out the remainder of the quarter to secure its third win of the season.

Gordon finished with 187 yards on the ground, but realized his team has to play a full game if it hopes to be successful when Big Ten play starts next week.

“We got to do it for four quarters. We get into Big Ten play and you have a slow start against a Big Ten opponent, it’s going to be a long game and you might not be able to bounce back or come back. You might be in a big hole,” Gordon said.

Wisconsin managed to shake off the cobwebs and South Florida, but the Badgers’ play showed some obvious areas of improvement heading into Northwestern next Saturday.

“I’m always unsettled,” Andersen said. If we had played very well today, I’d still feel very unsettled walking into Big Ten play.

“We have a lot of work to do.”

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