Saturday's first half was an exercise in everything that could go wrong for the Badgers. Three fumbles, including two by Heisman Trophy hopeful Melvin Gordon, helped set up all of Nebraska's first-half points and an early 17-3 lead.
The turnovers certainly did not help, but the stout Badger defense had its back to the wall for much of the first quarter. UW looked out of sorts and unsure of its assignments; the first Huskers touchdown was the direct result of a blown coverage by Michael Caputo and Joe Schobert.
Enter the hero of the afternoon, Melvin Gordon. Despite the two first-half fumbles, Gordon was a monster, rushing for 238 first-half yards on 16 carries. The highlight was a 62-yard run and hurdle of a Nebraska defender along the Wisconsin sideline. In a season of Heisman-worthy plays, that long scamper is unmatched in regard to game situation and necessity.
Once the offense was able to get on a roll, the high-energy Wisconsin defense returned to form. Led by Schobert, Michael Trotter and a few well-timed blitzes from Peniel Jean, the Badgers started dictating the pace of the game for the Husker offense. Ameer Abdullah was held in check to the tune of 69 yards rushing and Tommy Armstrong Jr. to 6-of-18 passing for 38 yards and one interception.
The second half was all Badgers. The linebackers group, A.K.A Chevy Bad boys, were all over the field. Vince Biegel had a stretch in the third quarter when he was effectively unblockable for three plays, the highlight being a tackle for loss and forced fumble on Abdullah. Four plays later, a Gordon touchdown put Wisconsin up 31-17 and the Badgers never looked back.
I think the defensive effort can be summed up best by a tweet from B5Q's very own editor, Mike Fiammetta:
It's like the #Badgers finally figured out how to stretch Chris Borland into three more dudes.
— Mike Fiammetta (@mikefiammetta) November 15, 2014
With 10:58 left in the game, Wisconsin had held Nebraska to 172 total yards of offense. Without those few untimely Badger turnovers, it would've been a challenge for the Huskers to score any points at all.
The story of this game, nonetheless, was Gordon. In just three quarters, Gordon ran for 408 yards and four touchdowns, needing a scant 25 carries to break the FBS single-game record. To say the Badger offense was one-dimensional is a disservice to Gordon; there was little need for Wisconsin to do anything other than give the best player in college football the ball.
Joel Stave was an efficient 7-of-11 passing for 46 yards and a touchdown. He was able to do just enough to keep Nebraska's defense off-balance, and Gordon did the rest. Wisconsin football now has the all-time leader in career rushing yards in Ron Dayne, the all-time scoring leader with Montee Ball and the all-time single-game rushing leader with Gordon. Running Back U?
With this victory combined with Minnesota's loss to Ohio State, Wisconsin is now in the driver's seat for the Big Ten West division title. Despite the early loss to LSU and hiccup at Northwestern, this Badger team still has the Big Ten championship game within reasonable grasp with two games left. What more can you ask for? Well, besides more running from Melvin Gordon.