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Gordon goes for 200 in Wisconsin’s 26-24 win

Wisconsin Badgers safety Michael Caputo (7) and Marcus Trotter (59) carry the Heartland traveling trophy of the field at Kinnick Stadium. Wisconsin beat Iowa 26-24. (Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)

The Sports Xchange

IOWA CITY, Iowa  — Melvin Gordon lost one major record, tied another and further solidified himself as a bona-fide Heisman Trophy candidate on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

The Wisconsin junior running back rushed for 200 yards to tie former Badgers running back Ron Dayne for both the school and Big Ten season record in a hard-fought 26-24 victory over Iowa.

Gordon, who added 64 yards receiving, became just the second Wisconsin player to eclipse 2,000 yards rushing in a season and now has 2,109, the same as Dayne in 2006.

“It means a lot to me, it means a lot to my teammates,” Gordon said. “I tied it, that’s cool. But I’m looking to break it. It’s good to be able break it at home in front of our fans.”

Gordon’s NCAA rushing mark was eclipsed just one week after storming through Nebraska for 408 yards. Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine ran for 427 yards against Kansas on Saturday.

“That is disappointing, but congratulations to that guy,” Gordon said. “That’s not really easy to do.”

Gordon provided a key play as a receiver out of the backfield. With the Badgers facing third-and-12, Gordon hauled in a 35-yard pass from quarterback Joel Stave that led to the game-deciding score.

With delayed blitzing safety Jordan Lomax in his face, Stave lofted a short pass to Gordon, who burst through the Iowa defense and sprinted to the Hawkeyes’ 33. Two plays later, Gordon blasted off left tackle for a 23-yard touchdown scamper to give No. 16 Wisconsin a 26-17 lead.

“I was supposed to bluff (Lomax),” Gordon said. “We knew they were coming. I was looking at him the whole time. We drew it up and it worked like we thought. He came down, he was going to bluff. I waited for him a little bit like I was going to block him. I shed him and my coach said he was going to try to stick his foot back in the ground and try to get after me, but I knew then it would be too late.”

Gordon scampered 88 yards to lead Wisconsin to a field goal for a 19-3 lead with 5:33 left in the third quarter. He had five explosive plays of 10-plus yards.

“He’s going to make his plays,” Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “I felt like we did everything we could do. We messed up a couple of times, and we paid for it.”

But the rest of the game was a street fight for the Badgers (9-2, 6-1), who will play host to rival Minnesota (8-3, 5-2) for the Big Ten West Division title next Saturday.

Iowa (7-4, 4-3) mounted a furious comeback attempt on three consecutive drives.

The Hawkeyes drove 70 yards in seven plays, culminating in a 20-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Jake Rudock to wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley to give Iowa its first touchdown. Running back Jordan Canzeri followed with a two-point conversion run to cut the deficit to 19-11.

Wisconsin punted on fourth-and-inches on its next drive.

Rudock immediately connected on a 28-yard pass to wide receiver Matt VandeBerg on the first play, then hit tight end Jake Duzey for 33 on the next play. On third-and-6 from the Wisconsin 17, Badgers cornerback Darius Hillary was called for pass interference in the end zone on Iowa wide receiver Tevaun Smith.

Two plays later, Rudock rushed in from the 3-yard line to move Iowa within 19-17. Iowa’s two-point conversion pass failed.

After Gordon’s touchdown put the Badgers up 26-17, Iowa stormed back. Rudock twice scrambled for first downs and completed three of four passes, including the last one for 9 yards to Duzey for a touchdown. That brought the Hawkeyes within 26-24 with 5:01 left.

“It was just the way it opened up,” Rudock said about his scrambling. “We had man coverages on a couple of them and I slid up the pocket and kept my eyes downfield and felt that hole, so I took it.”

But the Hawkeyes couldn’t get the Badgers off the field. Wisconsin took over at its 25. After converting a first down early in the possession, Stave rushed for 12 yards on third-and-8 to seal the win.

“Joel made a great read,” Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. “I couldn’t even tell you right now if there was three or four of them coming, but Joel saw the crease and he took a good angle and was able to make a very, very good play.”

Wisconsin converted 7 of 13 third downs and held the ball nearly seven minutes longer than Iowa.

Rudock finished 20 of 30 for 300 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 25 yards. Stave completed 11 of 14 passes for 139 yards.

BADGER BITS: Former Iowa defensive back Paul Krause, the NFL’s career leader in interceptions, served as the honorary team captain. ... The game was the 88th edition in the border rivalry, which began in 1894. Wisconsin leads the series 44-42-2. ... Wisconsin has played three straight games in Iowa City, the only time in the series a team had played at one location more than twice consecutively. ... The teams compete for the Heartland Trophy, which Wisconsin retained for the third straight time. ... Replay was used five times. 

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