MADISON -- "How about this guy? He's the best of the best."
Those were Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen's first words in his post-game press conference about junior running back Melvin Gordon, who was sitting next to him, after the No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers overwhelmed the No. 11 Nebraska Cornhuskers 59-24.
"Unbelievable, and I know the first thing he's going to tell you is about his teammates so I'm going to tell you how special of a young man he is," Andersen said. "I've said it all year long, ever since I got the chance to meet him almost two years ago now, but he's a special kid -- off the field, on the field."
Unbelievable is a proper adjective to describe Gordon's FBS-record setting and Heisman-defining performance on Saturday. He first broke his personal career rushing record for a single game -- one he set against Northwestern earlier this season -- very early in the third quarter. To note, he was knocking on the door of his personal record by halftime with 238 yards.
Then, he broke Ron Dayne's school record of 338 yards after a 68-yard run. That put him at 369 yards after a 6-yard touchdown, and the very next drive after, broke the Big Ten record previously held by Indiana's Anthony Thompson that had stood since 1989.
The FBS record, set by former TCU running back LaDainian Tomlinson with 406 yards against UTEP in 1999, was next in sight. Gordon admitted he didn't know he was close to the all-time mark, but was just "running to win." A fumble recovery by senior linebacker Marcus Trotter -- the Huskers' third turnover of the day -- set up the Badgers with 1st-and-10 on Nebraska's 26 yard-line.
Gordon said the play call was a power run, but after seeing the defensive line shift, he took an unconventional route for that particular play call -- he took it backside. It paid off big for a 26-yard touchdown, a 52-17 lead and, ultimately, the NCAA's all-time record.
"I just kind of predetermined, I kind of knew they would all sell out going to the left -- so I pressed it for a bit, cut back and made it happen," said Gordon, who finished the day with four touchdowns.
"Yeah, just made it happen," Andersen added with a laugh. "See how easy it is?"
Gordon finished with 408 yards on 25 carries -- a mind-blowing 16.3 yards per carry. He had carries of 42 yards in the first quarter, 62 yards and 44 yards in the second quarter, plus a 43-yard run in the third quarter. Fourteen of his runs this season have been at least 40 yards. The Badgers as a team lead the nation with 20 runs of 40-plus yards.
"He's a great player, and all you gotta do is give him a chance, and he'll make good things happen," said senior guard Kyle Costigan, who helped Wisconsin rush for 581 yards on the afternoon.
"You know, just to see something like that was fun to be a part of," Rob Havenstein said.
Gordon has 1,909 yards rushing on the season while averaging 190.9 yards per game and 8.56 yards per carry through 10 games -- all with at least two games left.
Gordon, as Andersen noted he would in the post-game press conference, gave credit to his offensive line and those blocking in front of him for allowing him the ability to break plays into the second and third levels.
"Like I said earlier," Gordon said, "it showed Melvin Gordon and 408 yards, but it should have everyone up there -- all of the offensive linemen because they really made it easy for me to, and they allowed me to have a lot of one-on-one matchups, and it's kind of been like that all season, so I couldn't thank them more."
Gordon dominated in only three quarters of play, but also had two fumbles early on in the game. With the Badgers down 17-10 but driving after the defense forced a three-and-out, Gordon went 16 yards on a carry but coughed up the ball. The Huskers recovered, and he admitted he was "out of it" for a bit with his confidence.
He credited strength and conditioning coach Evan Simon, as well as his teammates, with keeping his confidence up and telling him to "keep your mind to it."
On the first offensive snap after senior defensive linemen Warren Herring forced a key fumble that was recovered by sophomore linebacker Joe Schobert, Gordon immediately made an impact -- taking the ball and sprinting 39 yards to the Nebraska 17. Sophomore running back Corey Clement ran it for a 17-yard touchdown the next play after, tying the game at 17 but starting a streak of 56 unanswered points until Nebraska scored later in the fourth quarter.
Gordon said the game didn't mean much from a statistical perspective but rather on a team level, as the Badgers understood a loss to Nebraska would put their goal of reaching the Big Ten Championship game in difficult standing. He was able to let go and enjoy his record-setting performance with a group dance late in the game, but was humble in etching his name into the record book.
"I'm just honored to be brought up in the same sentence as Mr. Dayne and my boy, Montee."
Melvin holds the ncaa yards in a game record. Ron Dayne holds the ncaa rushing record and I hold the ncaa touchdown record lol #badgers— Montee Ball (@ballrb28) November 15, 2014