Saturday, No. 14 Wisconsin took to the field against the Iowa Hawkeyes, in a game that would help determine who would lead the race in West for a chance at the B1G championship.
Looking at the scores from the first half of game-play, its seems as if things were a little one-sided in Iowa City, but there is more of a story to tell. The Badgers offense is home to the nation’s top running back, Melvin Gordon. This was something the Iowa Hawkeyes were well aware of heading into Saturday’s showdown, wanting to keep Gordon away from the ball as much as possible.
The Hawkeye defense was hell-bent on slowing Gordon at every point, as he rushed just 39 yards in the first half. This stubborn determination to hold off a record-breaking running back cost the Hawkeyes dearly.
Wisconsin quarterback Tanner McEvoy faked a handoff to Gordon early on and as the Hawkeyes focused on an attack on Gordon in the backfield, McEvoy snuck through Iowa’s distracted defense to make a clean 45-yard touchdown run to bring the score to 9-3 in favor of the Badgers.
Gordon rallied, however, and recorded his 26th touchdown on the season by sailing into the end zone from six yards out to give the Badgers a 16-3 advantage at halftime.
As the second half of game play got underway in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes shifted their focus on both sides of the ball and were able to hold the Badger offense to a field goal to make the score 19-3. That 16 point deficient is when the Iowa offense rallied under quarterback Jake Rudock.
Rudock pulled a spiraling Hawkeye offense up by it’s bootstraps with a 20-yard torpedo to Kevonte Martin-Manley to bring the score to 19-10. Then, Rudock put up a 3-yard run for a touchdown to make the score 19-17, failing to complete the two-point conversion.
Early in the fourth quarter, it seemed the Hawkeyes were dead set on stealing the show, but that is when Gordon, the Badgers knight in shining cardinal and white, caught a 35-yard pass on 3rd and 13, cruising past the Iowa defense for a 23-yard touchdown run to put the Badgers ahead 26-17.
Rudock answered the point gap with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jake Duzey with five minutes left to play, making the score and enticing 26-24, a two-point disparity that the Hawkeyes couldn’t close.
Rudock closed the game with 311 yards passing for two touchdowns, with Jake Duzey getting four receptions, 72 yards and one touchdown. The offensive efforts of the Iowa Hawkeyes were noble, and gave Wisconsin a true test, but in the end it simply was not enough to pull out a victory over the Badgers.
Wisconsin was saved, in the end, by Gordon.
“He made a big-time play at the end there. Caught a couple of balls that were big difference makers for us,” head coach Gary Andersen.
While Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine broke Gordon’s infantile FBS rushing record with 427 yards, Gordon was breaking records of his own. Gordon reached 2,000 rushing yards on the season, being the 17th FBS player to do so. With 31 carries on 200 yards rushing, totaling two touchdowns, Gordon is at 2,109 rushing yards this season. This is the 10th most in a single season for any player in FBS history. Gordon is showing no signs of slowing down.
As the name Melvin Gordon and the word Heisman are being talked about together at an increasing rate, the Badgers have secured their place over Iowa in the West. All that is left for them to do now is to beat Minnesota next weekend and they can just as well pack their bags for Indianapolis for a showdown with the Ohio State Buckeyes and the B1G Championship.
*Section Photo credit to Mike McGinnis, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Reese Strickland, USA Today Sports