In the history of the Super Bowl, only two running backs have ever had 100 or more yards receiving. Their names? James White, who did it in last year’s Super Bowl, and Corey Clement who did it Sunday.
The two were teammates at the University of Wisconsin in 2013 when Clement backed up White and fellow Badger great Melvin Gordon. Sunday in Minneapolis, it was Clement and the Eagles who got the better of White and his Patriots.
Clement’s impact on the game cannot be understated. In addition to tallying more than 100 yards receiving, he was involved in arguably two of the biggest plays of the night. He executed a 55-yard reception — the longest play for either team all night — and amazingly, was only his third-biggest play of the night.
The first of these two game-changing plays happened in the second quarter on a critical fourth and goal.
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson elected to forego a field goal attempt and go for a touchdown. His play call was genius and it all began with a direct snap to rookie running back Corey Clement.
Clement fielded the snap instead of Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. He then rolled to his left and flipped the ball to tight end, and former high school quarterback, Tre Burton.
Burton reversed field and threw a strike to quarterback Nick Foles who had slipped out of the backfield — virtually unnoticed — and was wide open in the end zone. In a postgame interview, a reporter asked Clement about what he thought prior to running such a risky play.
His response: “Believing in Coach Peterson’s philosophy. You can’t second guess it.”
Clement and the rest of the Eagles bought into the risky play and it resulted in a momentum-changing touchdown and a 10-point lead on the mighty New England Patriots heading into halftime.
In the third quarter, Clement once again heard his number called. The Eagles held a slim 22-19 lead at this point when quarterback Nick Foles dropped back and delivered an over-the-shoulder strike to Clement in the back of the end zone.
Clement just barely kept his feet in bounds as he hauled in the catch, or so he thought. The referees put the play under replay review which lasted for an agonizingly long time.
When asked postgame by reporters what was going through his head during the review Clement said that he prayed to himself, “‘Please don’t take this away from me’ because you never know when these moments are going to come back.”
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No matter how much he goes on to accomplish in his career, it is difficult to imagine any career-defining moment eclipsing this one.
On the other side of the ball, James White, another former Badger and star of last year’s Super Bowl comeback, had a very strong day himself. White finished the contest with 45 rushing yards, 21 receiving yards and a touchdown — his fourth overall in the last two Super Bowls. He has been a valuable member of the Patriots for the past two seasons.
Former Badger defensive tackle Beau Allen also played in the game, recording two tackles for the Eagles. Meanwhile, former Badger Chris Maragos missed the game with a knee injury.
The success of these two running backs is no aberration and follows a consistent trend of Badger running backs finding success in the NFL.
Ron Dayne, Montee Ball and breakout, NFL pro bowler Melvin Gordon are just some examples, to name a few. Current UW freshman Jonathan Taylor looks to be next in the seemingly never-ending assembly line of Wisconsin running backs who to move on to NFL success.
He’ll have to wait at least another two years until his NFL chance though as pro rules require players to complete their junior season of college football before being eligible for the pros and he is still a true freshman.
While Clement’s overnight success in the Super Bowl may be a surprise to some, it shouldn’t be. After all, the Badgers do have a long history of dominating in Minnesota.