Rested No. 19 Badgers look to get Gordon going

Associated Press

September 16, 2014

Western Illinois's Kevin Kintzel (17) stops Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Madison, Wis.

MADISON Wisconsin quarterback Tanner McEvoy doled out some good-natured trash talk after outrushing teammate Melvin Gordon.

For once, Gordon wasn't the top runner for the 19th-ranked Badgers.

After a bye week, Wisconsin (1-1) is rested and ready to get its star tailback going again this weekend against Bowling Green.

"That's tough dealing with the jokes Tanner hit me with but, it's all love," Gordon said Monday. "It's a competition, obviously, but I'll be better against Bowling Green."

McEvoy bested Gordon in the running game with 55 yards on nine carries in the Badgers' 37-3 win against Western Illinois on Sept. 6. Gordon rushed for just 38 yards on 17 carries as the Leathernecks found success by stacking the box.

Gordon did have an 8-yard touchdown catch against Western Illinois. Otherwise, it's been a rough start to the season for Gordon, one of the nation's best rushers who collected 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground as a sophomore in 2013.

Gordon had 16 carries for 140 yards against LSU, but suffered a hip flexor injury and didn't play the majority of the second half in the Badgers' season-opening 28-24 loss. He said he's recovered from the injury and wasn't hampered by the hip against Western Illinois or practice during Wisconsin's bye week.

Gordon has acknowledged frustration at times this season with his game, but Badgers coach Gary Andersen said he doesn't sense Gordon's urgency with expectations. Andersen remains optimistic Gordon will bounce back against Bowling Green.

Wisconsin quarterback Tanner McEvoy throws past Western Illinois's J.J. Raffelson (43) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin won 37-3.

"The big thing with Melvin, I'm on guard with that with any player when they may be in a position to have expectations that they put on themselves or that they think have been put on them," Andersen said.

"I see zero signs of that and when I talk to Melvin about it he says 'Coach, I'm ready to go. I'm good and ready to go.' And I believe him when he says that to me," Andersen added. "I honestly believe he's saying 'Coach, I'm going to have my opportunity to get mine.'"

The Badgers mustered only 187 yards rushing on 39 carries against Western Illinois, a lower-division school. Besides stacking the box, Western also ran successful zone schemes, while Wisconsin offensive linemen were ineffective with their combination blocking.

Wisconsin's Sam Arneson (49) lifts Tanner McEvoy (5) after McEvoy's touchdown run during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Western Illinois Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Madison, Wis.

Andersen said the Badgers spent time in practice during the bye week working on the running game.

"Do we expect to run the ball better this week than we did in week two? Yes, we do. And I'm sure Bowling Green is going to load up the box and challenge us to run the ball effectively," Andersen said.

Gordon provided a blunt assessment when asked to grade his performance through two games, giving himself a "D." He said he's managing expectations the best he can.

"It's tough when everyone across the country is expecting you to break a long one probably every game, and if you don't, it's like 'Maybe, he's not what we thought he was,'" Gordon said. "But you've got to ignore it the best you can, try to move forward and put your best foot forward in the next game."