Recap: Wisconsin vs. Nebraska
Madison, WI (SportsNetwork.com) - Melvin Gordon stiff-armed defenders, skipped past would-be tacklers, broke through wide-open holes and raced around sealed corners to rush for more yards than anyone in FBS history.
A record performance that culminated in a steady snowfall heated up the junior running back's chances to win college football's most prestigious individual honor.
Gordon bolstered his Heisman Trophy candidacy with a record 408 yards rushing and No. 22 Wisconsin ran away with a 59-24 win over No. 11 Nebraska in a key Big Ten West showdown on Saturday.
Gordon, already the nation's leading rusher entering play, ripped off seven runs of at least 26 yards and broke future NFL great LaDainian Tomlinson's FBS record for rushing yards in a game.
Tomlinson, who gained 406 yards for TCU against UTEP on Nov. 20, 1999, congratulated Gordon in a tweet.
"It feels great," said Gordon. "I mean, it's a great feeling to see your hard work pay off. And it was just great. My teammates were so excited, too, they got me amped up. I was trying to hold back a little bit. But after they told me, man, I felt so good. And like I said, I just want to thank everyone around me, because all my teammates had a lot to do with everything."
Gordon also broke the old Wisconsin record of 339 yards set by all-time NCAA rushing leader Ron Dayne against Hawaii on Nov. 30, 1996.
He and the Badgers (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) both overcame ball security issues in the first half to score 56 straight points after trailing 17-3, picking up their fifth consecutive win.
"This football team was hit right in the face with some major adversity at the beginning of the game and they just kept on battling," said Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen. "I'm so proud of the kids overall. Proud of this team."
Nebraska (8-2, 4-2) and senior running back Ameer Abdullah, whose own Heisman bid is probably over, had a three-game winning streak snapped despite having a bye week to get ready for Gordon and the Badgers.
"We started off well (but) it flipped somewhere along the way," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. "It's like our guys totally lost their confidence. Our tackling was atrocious, we had some missed assignments. Obviously we got beat and I give them credit."
Wisconsin took a one-game lead over Nebraska and Minnesota in the Big Ten West division with two regular-season games remaining against Iowa and Minnesota, which fell to Ohio State on Saturday.
"I knew if we lost this game, it would be tough for us to get in the Big Ten championship," said Gordon. "It was pretty much the end of the road for us. These last few games are very important."
Gordon set the record with a 26-yard touchdown run in the snow on the final play of the third quarter. His 408 yards came on 25 carries for an average of 16.32 yards. His four rushing touchdowns gave him an FBS-high 25 combined TDs this season.
The performance also included runs of 68, 62, 44, 43, 42 and 39 yards, helping Wisconsin rush for 581 yards as a team.
"I didn't even know I was close to a record like that," Gordon said. "I was kind of just running to win."
He had 16 carries for 238 yards in the first half with a 62-yard touchdown run, but also fumbled twice, including one that led to a Nebraska touchdown. He has 1,909 yards rushing this season, 200 shy of Dayne's single-season team record of 2,109 set in 1996.
The Badgers improved to 3-1 against Nebraska since the Huskers joined the Big Ten -- including a 70-31 win in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game. Saturday was the first time they played for the Freedom Trophy, which was introduced to the rivalry this year.
Joel Stave passed for 46 yards with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Sam Arneson and Corey Clement, Tanner McEvoy and Dare Ogunbowale also ran for touchdowns in the win.
Abdullah gained 69 yards on 18 carries against Wisconsin's No. 1 defense and quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. passed and ran for a touchdown.
The Badgers entered play with the third-best scoring defense in the country, giving up just 14.3 points per game. They allowed 17 in the first half against Nebraska, including 10 off of three fumbles. But Wisconsin scored the last 21 points in the half for a 24-17 lead and never trailed after that.
Linebacker Zaire Anderson recovered a fumble on Wisconsin's second play to set up Drew Brown's 32-yard field goal. Armstrong's 12-yard pass to Kenny Bell then gave the Huskers a 10-0 lead just 5:39 into the game.
Gordon's 42-yard run down the left sideline led to Wisconsin's first points, a 26-yard field goal by Rafael Gaglianone, but his fumble on third down after a Nebraska punt was picked up by Anderson and resulted in Armstrong's 5-yard touchdown run for a 17-3 Huskers lead 48 seconds into the second quarter.
Gordon stiff-armed Nebraska safety Corey Cooper on his 42-yard run in the first quarter and ran through a diving Cooper on the right sideline during his 62-yard touchdown in the second, which got the Badgers within 17-10.
His second fumble came at the Nebraska 41, but the Huskers gave the ball right back on Terrell Newby's fumble and Gordon broke off a 39-yard run on first down to set up Clement's 17-yard touchdown to tie the score at 17-17 with 7:21 left in the first half.
Stave's 5-yard pass to Arneson gave Wisconsin a 24-17 lead with 3 1/2 minutes left in the half.
After Abdullah lost a fumble on Nebraska's second possession after halftime, Gordon set up his own 1-yard touchdown with a 43-yard burst, giving Wisconsin a 31-17 lead.
Touchdown runs by Gordon and McEvoy in the next seven minutes gave the Badgers a 45-17 lead and Gordon broke the record soon after that following Armstrong's fumble.Game Notes
Nebraska plays Minnesota next week, then finishes the regular season at Iowa
on Nov. 28 ... Clement appeared to hurt his left arm after his touchdown run
in the second quarter but returned to the game in the fourth quarter.