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Auburn vs. Wisconsin: B5Q Roundtable discusses 34-31 Outback Bowl victory

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Looking back on Wisconsin's thrilling, season-ending victory over Auburn.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In a matchup where the No. 17 Wisconsin Badgers were a near-touchdown underdog to the No. 19 Auburn Tigers, junior running back Melvin Gordon added an exclamation point to his storied Badgers career -- rushing for 251 yards and three touchdowns -- as the Badgers upset the Tigers 34-31 in overtime.

To breakdown the win, we bring on a trio of B5Q writers:

The Good: What went well against Auburn?

Luke: I never thought I would say this after a tumultuous season in this area, but Andy Ludwig did a great job with play calling. Early in the game he was creative with the way he called the game and got his playmakers into the the open field with plays like the jet sweep and even giving Tanner McEvoy the chance to throw the ball, which was something he hadn't done since October. He had Auburn very confused, because he hadn't called a game like this all year. The run game gets an A+ for the game, and while you can be critical of Ludwig and say when the run really started to churn he tried throwing too much, I look at it as him having confidence in Joel Stave and not wanting to abandon it unless he had to. When he finally did abandon the passing game, Gordon took the game over and made Auburn look silly. He was a man among boys out there, but I thought this performance by the offensive line was actually the best all season. They opened up bigger holes than I had seen all year. Even during the record setting Nebraska game, it was more of Gordon being able to outrun the defense than the offensive line having huge holes for him to run through --- not the case in Tampa. Finally, Stave deserves some credit for his performance in the two minute offense. He was phenomenal in leading the Badgers down the field and giving them the chance to tie the game up.

The defense also should get credit for what they did. They bent but didn't break all day. Other than the 65-yard touchdown from Nick Marshall to Ricardo Louis, they forced Auburn into three-and-outs and if they scored, they had to work for it. They got great pressure on Nick Marshall despite not having Konrad Zagzebski and the secondary played pretty well at times in coverage to give the front seven an opportunity to get to the quarterback by not allowing Marshall to find an open man.

Also, Rafael Gaglianone was the man. He sparked a Twitter barnstorm while different hashtags like #PotbelliedKickers #FatCollegeKickers and so on. When it comes down to it, the Brazilian sure does know how to stripe the ball. He was big in two very critical opportunities and out kicked Auburn's Daniel Carlson. Great day for him and the Badgers as they finally got off the schneid.

Louis: Let's cut to the chase: This was a legendary performance by Gordon. His 53-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1 will go down in Wisconsin lore. He was a horse. He is the most talented Badger I have ever seen. He is so, so wonderful, that I don't know enough hyperbole to describe him anymore. I will now bang my keyboard and hope that will suffice.

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In addition to that astute point ^^^, the offensive line and defensive front seven both played at an elite level, and Gaglinone was clutch. They needed to be magnificent, because Wisconsin was pretty bad everywhere else.

Neal: It seems unfair to the team to go with only Gordon. But as Louis mentions, that was an all-time Wisconsin football performance. Although it did not happen in the Rose Bowl like Ron Dayne, Gordon's rushing efforts were nearly as valuable for the program and for that matter the Big Ten Conference. Shaking off the SEC and bowl demons in one afternoon is no small feat.

Also I'd be remiss not to mention Stave. As shaky as his interceptions were, he delivered on the game tying drive. That confidence along with an offseason under Paul Chryst's tutelage and it is possible to have some optimism for the passing game next year.

The Bad: What did the Tigers exploit, and how did the Badgers shoot themselves in the foot?

Luke: To me, the secondary was exposed with not having enough ball skills to hang with an athletic team like Auburn. I personally think the unit gets a bad rap from a lot of fans and would argue that they aren't as bad as everyone thinks, but they do need to do a better job of turning and playing the ball rather than just playing the receiver and putting their hands and never looking for the ball.

The other area Auburn exploited is the quarterback position. Stave's three interceptions were not good ones and nearly killed the Badgers chances to win. If Gordon would not have been the type of player he is, Wisconsin doesn't win this game. He faced ten men in the box at times, but luckily for him Ludwig kept Derek Watt in for most of the game to help spring him to the second level and the offensive line did a great job of getting to the next level too.

Finally, Drew Meyer had a terrible game. I know he was pinned back in his own endzone with little room, but you can't hit a 22 yard punt in that situation. He job is to flip the field and win the field position battle, which didn't happen. It's been a struggle all year, hence the Bart Houston experiment, and needs to be addressed by Chryst and Co next season.

Louis: The secondary is too slow and too small. That was the one facet where it was blatantly clear that Wisconsin is a 3-star team.

Wisconsin shot itself in the foot in the passing game. It made its way into Auburn territory three times in the first half, and all three times gave up bad interceptions -- two ugly throws and one ugly drop. It's worrisome that this is what third-year starting quarterback Joel Stave looks like. Fingers crossed that Paul Chryst can whisper serviceability into Stave's ear, because if he can then Wisconsin could be excellent next season.

Neal: All in all, I thought the defense played a respectable game. They held Auburn to under it's season scoring average. But the secondary ball skills are a major concern. It is unreasonable to think the corners will have blanket coverage every play, but seemingly every 50/50 ball is won by not a Wisconsin defender. This was most evident in the Sojourn Shelton dropped interception. Even with a ball falling into his lap, Shelton failed to make a clean catch initially and was disrupted from making a game changing play.

For Wisconsin to make the leap into playoff contender they will need playmakers in the secondary. Ben Strickland has done wonders on the recruiting trails and his relationship with Wisconsin high school football cannot be understated. But the Badgers need better results from the secondary.

B5Q Game Balls: You have three game balls. Melvin Gordon's the obvious choice -- who gets the other two?

Luke: I love the three game balls because I have been doing this all year.

Game ball No. 1 then goes to Gordon. Enough said.

Game ball No. 2 goes to Gaglianone. Kickers are one of the most scrutinized positions. If they make a kick, it's their job. If they miss a kick, your 85 year old mother in law could have hit that kick. Besides that fact, he was clutch. He hit two high pressure kicks with one to force overtime for the Badgers and the other to give them the lead. While they weren't from long distance like the LSU kick, he is still a freshman and those kicks weren't easy.

Game ball No. 3 goes to The Don himself, Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez. He showed that he was in charge this bowl game more so than the Rose Bowl a few years back. He went for it on fourth down from his own side of the 50 and IT WORKED. The Badgers went for it on fourth down three times and converted on all of them. He should his will to win and brought home a win for his seniors and a final win for himself. It was truly a storybook ending. Alvarez gets the guy he wanted all along as coach and then coaches his last game and gets the W. We even saw him bust a move after the game and the players lifted him on their shoulders. It was all around a great scene and good for Alvarez and the gang.

Louis: Great preface.

Non-Gordon game ball No. 1: Michael Caputo

In an incredibly difficult matchup for any defense, Caputo was the most solid rock. He is Wisconsin's most dependable tackler, and most frequent attitude setter. Joe Schorbert and Vince Biegel both made enormous impacts in the pass rush. But it was Caputo who kept a big-play running game corralled.

Non-Gordon game ball No. 2: Dallas Lewallen/Ray Ball

Dan Voltz's injury could have been disastrous, as it was in the Ohio State game. But Lewallen and Ball filled in more-than capably. It's obvious now that Ball was far from 100 percent in the Big Ten Championship game, because if Wisconsin's offensive line was as good then as it was today then Wisconsin would have been much more competitive.

Non-Gordon game ball honorable mention: Rafael Gaglianone.

He did exactly what he was supposed to do, and that's much better than Wisconsin has been able to say for the position in a long time.

Neal: It will be really hard to top the two mentioned by Louis, but hey while we are here may as well give it the old college try right?

No. 1: Corey Clement. From the opening drive it was clear Wisconsin missed Clement's productivity the past few weeks of the season as he was dealing with the shoulder injury. His presence on the field forced Auburn to account for someone other than Gordon. His comments after the game about wanting to show Badger Nation he was capable of carrying the torch were spot on. The Wisconsin run game dominance will certainly continue under his watch.

No. 2: Joel Stave. Sorry to go all offense here, but Stave showed incredible mettle bouncing back from those three devastating interceptions and made several big throws at the end with the game on the line. After the mental rollercoaster he experienced this season, it would have been easy for him to go in the tank and completely collapse. The fourth down pass to Sam Arneson was as clutch as it gets. Kudos to Stave to rally for the victory.

We asked after the Ohio State debacle if this season was a successful one. We'll ask again -- has this been a successful season?

Luke: Yes. They were able to win a bowl game, which hadn't been done since 2009. While they didn't win the conference and the season had its up and downs, this team still won 11 games this season and won the Big Ten West division. This group did get to face a rather easy schedule (minus LSU and OSU) and may not be the sexiest of bunches to ever walk onto the field at Camp Randall (2011 did it with flash), but they still had a good season. It's never easy to get to double digits wins and they did it. More than anything though, they won the bowl game and that's what counts. It may not have been wildly successful, but it was a success.

Louis: Ach, I was ultra-pessimistic after the Ohio State game, and now I feel conflicted.

This may be punting, but -- this was a completely different team than the one that faced OSU. The offensive line was in much better health, even after Voltz's injury. The defense had its struggles but performed about as as well as we could have hoped against one of the best offenses in the country.

I have to stick to my guns and say, no, this was not a successful season. The loss to Ohio State was that bad. It was the most important game of the season, and Wisconsin didn't even show up. A competitive effort in that game would make me feel so much better.

BUT...this was the perfect note to end the season. Wisconsin tossed several monkeys off its back -- a bowl win, far from Camp Randall, against a non-conference top-25 opponent, from the SEC no less. It defied every cliche you could say about Wisconsin. Now we go into 2015 as everybody's team to watch.

This win was huge for Wisconsin and huge for the Big Ten. The first thought that popped in my head was "Cripes, Gary Andersen is stupid." And that's a little unfair, but at the same time cathartic because it felt like he cheapened Wisconsin when he decided that Oregon State was somehow a comparable job.

Wisconsin regained whatever value it lost, and then some. And now we're looking at 2015 drooling over what Paul Chryst and Dave Aranda can do with the excellent pieces they have.

Wisconsin didn't reach its potential this year, but it set the table beautifully.

Neal: Success is a fickle beast. I'm not sure this season can be considered successfully with all the turmoil. From the LSU collapse to the inexplicable Big Ten title game, there were enough soul crushing moments for anyone to question why they even follow college football.

When it's all said and done(which is now I guess) I will remember this season as a snapshot of the brilliance that is Melvin Gordon. 408 yards in three quarters and bookend nearly unstoppable performances against two perennial SEC powerhouses. If success is measured in memorable moments, Melvin provided enough to last a lifetime.

(Author's note: We appreciate you all reading our roundtables throughout the football season. Make sure to check back in the coming days for a special edition roundtable -- reflecting back on the career of Melvin Gordon)