Gordon, Badgers run over Huskers in 59-24 rout
MADISON, Wis. - The last time Nebraska faced Melvin Gordon in the 2012 Big Ten Championship was a horrible nightmare for the Huskers. In Saturday night's 59-24 debacle of a loss, it was even worse.
All Gordon did this time around was put on the best performance by a running back in FBS history, breaking the NCAA Division I record with 408 rushing yards on just 25 carries to go along with four touchdowns.
The rushing total broke LaDainian Tomlinson's record of 406 set back in 1999 and made him just the second FBS player ever to eclipse 400 yards in a game. To make it even worse, Gordon did all of that in just three quarters.
After leading 17-3 at the end of the first quarter of a game that could very well determine the Big Ten West Division title, Nebraska would completely self destruct from the second quarter on, giving up 56 unanswered points and 558 total rushing yards to the Badgers, the most yards NU has ever allowed on the ground in one game.
"I'm obviously disappointed," head coach Bo Pelini said. "We started off well. We were did a lot of good things in all three phases of the game, but when it flipped, it flipped somewhere along the way. It was like our guys totally lost their confidence."
Oddly enough, the game couldn't have started off much better for Nebraska, as Wisconsin's Kenzel Doe fumbled on just the second play from scrimmage and the Huskers recovered at the UW 29. Drew Brown drilled a 32-yard field goal to put NU up 3-0 right off the bat.
After a quick three-and-out by the Badgers on their ensuing possession, Tommy Armstrong hit a wide-open Kenny Bell in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. The catch not only gave Nebraska a 10-0 lead, it also made Bell the school's all-time leader in career receiving yards, passing Johnny Rodgers' mark of 2,479.
Wisconsin was finally able to get on the board on its next drive, as a 42-yard run by Gordon set up a 26-yard field goal by Rafael Gaglianone. As prolific of a game as Gordon had, he did lose two fumbles in the first half, including one late in the first quarter that led to a five-yard touchdown run by Armstrong to make it 17-3.
Just when it looked like Nebraska was in full control, things just as quickly fell apart in the second quarter.
A 62-yard touchdown run by Gordon on UW's following drive sparked a run of 21 unanswered points by the Badgers to end the half. Corey Clement rushed for a 17-yard score after a 39-yard scamper by Gordon, and then a 44-yard Gordon run set up a five-yard touchdown pass from Joel Stave to Sam Arneson.
When the first half finally came to a close, Wisconsin had put up a staggering 286 rushing yards as a team, with 240 of those coming from Gordon.
"Our tackling was atrocious, we had some missed assignments, and obviously we got beat," Pelini said. "Give them credit."
The second half didn't go any better for the Huskers, either. Nebraska turned the ball over on back-to-back plays, the first an interception by Peniel Jean and then a fumble by Ameer Abdullah.
Wisconsin turned Abdullah's fumble into another touchdown, as Gordon ripped off another 43-yard run down to the 1-yard line and then punched it into the end zone the very next play to make it 31-17. The Badgers would eventually get the ball back and Gordon took the first play 68 yards down to the six before trotting untouched in for his fourth score of the night.
Quarterback Tanner McEvoy pushed UW's lead to 45-17 with an 11-yard touchdown run with a minute left in the third quarter, giving the Badgers 42 unanswered points since the start of the second quarter.
On the final play of the third, Gordon put a ribbon on his banner day with a 26-yard touchdown run to give him the NCAA record and put Wisconsin up 52-17.
"I thought morale was fine at halftime," Pelini said. "Then that third quarter obviously didn't help with us turning the football over. One thing after another happened in that third quarter, and somebody had to make a play. Something had to happen to change the momentum, and it didn't happen."
The fourth quarter was merely a formality from there, as Wisconsin added another touchdown by Dare Ogunbowale and Nebraska's Terrell Newby had a 2-yard scoring run after a Wisconsin tunrover to give the game its final score, 59-24.
With their Big Ten title hopes now all but lost, Nebraska must try to regroup in time for next week's final home against against Minnesota. Kickoff time and television information for that game has yet to be announced.