Nebraska held Melvin Gordon mostly in check for one quarter. It was the other two quarters that did in the 16th-ranked Huskers as Gordon and the Badgers ran absolutely wild and into the NCAA record books.
Gordon’s 408 rushing yards eclipsed the previous NCAA record of 406 rushing yards by Texas Christian’s LaDanian Tomlinson as the Heisman trophy candidate scored four touchdowns to help 20th-ranked Wisconsin score a decisive 59-24 win over Nebraska in Madison. Two years after rushing for over 200 yards in Wisconsin’s Big Ten championship game victory over the Huskers in Indianapolis, Gordon was even more impressive as the Blackshirts had no answer. In the 2012 game, Wisconsin rushed for 539 yards, while the 2014 edition saw the Badgers roll up 581 yards rushing. It was a two quarter stretch that saw the Badgers take firm control of the Big Ten west division and send the Huskers searching for answers.
Nebraska scored first, with Drew Brown’s 32-yard field goal getting the Huskers a 3-0 lead after the Huskers recovered a Kenzel Doe fumble deep in Badger territory. Kenny Bell’s 12-yard touchdown catch extended the lead to 10-0 later in the first quarter, with a Wisconsin field goal cutting the deficit to seven at 10-3. Armstrong’s 5-yard touchdown run put Nebraska ahead 17-3 with 14:12 remaining in the second quarter, with the rest of the game an unstoppable Wisconsin avalanche led by Gordon.
Gordon and the Badgers responded in a big way, as the senior ran 62 yards for a touchdown on the following possession to cut the lead in half at 17-10. Gordon however, fumbled on the next Badgers possession and Nebraska recovered, but would turn it right back to Wisconsin on a Terrell Newby fumble and the rest was history as Corey Clement tied the game at 17-17 on a 17-yard touchdown run at the 7:21 mark. Joel Stave found tight end Sam Arneson for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 3:31 left before halftime and gave the Badgers a 24-17 lead which they never relinquished.
Coming out of halftime, Nebraska got the kickoff and was unable to score. The Blackshirts did stop the Badgers, but Ameer Abdullah’s fumble was recovered by Wisconsin at the Badgers 42-yard line on the next drive and Wisconsin never looked back as Gordon’s 1-yard touchdown run made it 31-17. Gordon would add a 6-yard score and a 26-yard rushing touchdown later in the quarter in addition to an 11-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tanner McEvoy to give the Badgers an insurmountable 52-17 lead after three quarters. The 26-yard run to close the quarter by Gordon gave him 408 rushing yards and the NCAA record before the final quarter began.
In mop up time in the fourth quarter, Dare Ogunbowale added an 8-yard touchdown run for Wisconsin and Newby scored on a 2-yard run to provide for the final points and the 59-24 score line. In a game that featured 806 yards of total offense, Gordon accounted for 408 of them and ended the game with 1,909 yards rushing in just 10 games this season. Despite forcing three Wisconsin fumbles in the first half, Nebraska would eventually commit as many turnovers as the Badgers, with both teams turning the ball over four times.
The health status of Abdullah heading into the game was a big question mark and initially it looked as if the senior running back was his old self. However as the game wore on, it appeared Abdullah had not fully healed from an MCL sprain suffered against Purdue and finished with 18 carries for 69 yards. Armstrong struggled in the passing game, completing 6-0f-18 passes for 62 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The sophomore quarterback added 20 carries for 17 yards, while Abdullah added a 26-yard reception to led the Huskers in receiving yardage. Bell’s 12-yard scoring strike moved him ahead of Johnny Rodgers on the all-time Nebraska receiving yardage list, but the senior added only a 2-yard reception later in the game to finish with two catches for 14 yards.
Stave finished 7-of-11 passing for 46 yards and one touchdown as the Badgers improved to 8-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten with the victory. With two games to go, the Badgers are in the driver’s seat on the way to Indianapolis and a spot in the conference title game, facing only games at Iowa and at home against Minnesota. Defensive end Randy Gregory left the field on Gordon’s final touchdown run with an undisclosed injury and his status is unknown, although Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini did say after the game that Gregory should be “fine.”
Nebraska is also 8-2 overall but 4-2 in league play, facing games at home versus Minnesota and at Iowa to close the regular season. The Huskers will face a 7-3 Gophers squad that fell to Ohio State 31-24 in Minneapolis.