Badgers, Gordon run all over Bowling Green
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — After Melvin Gordon fumbled on his first carry, teammate Corey Clement gave him a fist bump on the sideline and told his fellow Wisconsin running back to shake off the mistake.
It turned out to be the start of record-setting day for the 19th-ranked Badgers.
Gordon rushed for career highs of 253 yards and five touchdowns, and Wisconsin ran for a Big Ten-record 644 yards to trample Bowling Green in a 68-17 victory Saturday.
Gordon had 179 yards and four scores by halftime alone before dashing for a 69-yard touchdown on his first carry of the second half. He silenced any doubters worried about his 38-yard outing the previous game.
“I was motivated. I heard a lot of people doubting me saying ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that,'” he said. “That definitely motivated me to get out there and do what I needed to do.”
The junior tailback brushed aside a question about whether he’s back in the discussion for the Heisman Trophy.
The Badgers, though, put an emphatic end to talk about their running game being off track after getting slowed two weeks ago by lower division Western Illinois.
“The unselfishness of Melvin Gordon … as we’ve gone through the first part of the season has been incredible. I’m so proud of the way he’s handled it. And today was his day,” coach Gary Andersen said.
The Badgers (2-1) forced turnovers on back-to-back possessions by the Falcons (2-2) in the first half to break open a close game. Gordon capitalized each time with scores before closing the half with a 21-yard touchdown run for the highlight reel.
On that play, Gordon broke two tackles, sidestepped another Falcon and outraced yet another defender into the front corner of the end zone to make it 41-10 at halftime.
And to think Gordon’s day started with a fumble on his first carry — the first of his career after 322 attempts.
Clement started the next series. When asked, Andersen said he gave no thought to sitting Gordon.
On the sideline before the drive, Clement offered words of encouragement.
“I really just told him to keep his head up. I just gave him a fist-pound, told him we still had a whole game left to play. Don’t let that weigh on you,” Clement said.
The only drama left in the second half was whether Gordon would eclipse the school’s single-game rushing record of 339 set by Ron Dayne in 1996.
But the junior’s day ended after his 13th carry with about 12 minutes to go in the third quarter.
“There’s a shiftiness about him,” Bowling Green coach Dino Babers said. “He has breakaway speed. I saw two or three stiff arms, like he’s stiff-arming kids like he was playing in a Pop Warner game.”
Clement finished with 111 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 16 carries, while quarterback Tanner McEvoy had 158 yards rushing on 11 attempts before departing late in the third quarter with Wisconsin leading by 52.
Among the marks set or tied by Wisconsin:
—The team rushing total was the most in the Big Ten’s modern era, dating back to 1946.
—Gordon became the sixth Badger to score five touchdowns in a game, and the first since P.J. Hill in 2007.
—Gordon’s 19.5 yards per carry set a record for a Badger with at least 10 attempts.
Fresh off a bye week, the Badgers put together a dominating, all-around performance to squash Bowling Green’s hopes for a second straight victory against a Big Ten team.
The Falcons beat Indiana last week behind a fast-paced offense that ran a dizzying 113 plays.
Two Wisconsin fumbles in the first half and terrific play by Bowling Green receivers had the visitors dreaming briefly about an upset.
A 28-yard field goal by Tyler Tate cut Wisconsin’s lead to 14-10 with 1:01 left in the first quarter. Bowling Green had Wisconsin defenders on their heels again driving to the 8 early in the second quarter to answer a Wisconsin touchdown.
But James Knapke’s third-down pass was tipped and intercepted in the end zone by Lubern Figaro, who returned it 43 yards.
The Badgers were off to the races from there.
“We could have tackled a lot better. I’m not going to say that would change everything in the game because Wisconsin is a good football team. But I think our lack of tackling did not help us at all,” Bowling Green linebacker Gabe Martin said.
Fred Coppet had a 35-yard touchdown run in the first quarter for Bowling Green.