Gordon rallies slow-starting Wisconsin past South Florida

By Tamira Madsen The Sports Xchange MADISON -- Melvin Gordon delivered a passionate halftime speech to Wisconsin's offense and proceeded to rush for two touchdowns as the No. 19 Badgers got past South Florida 27-10 on Saturday at Camp Randall. "W...

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Wisconsin Badgers running back Melvin Gordon (25) rushes with the football as South Florida Bulls linebacker Nigel Harris (57) defends during the third quarter Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 27-10. (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

By Tamira Madsen

The Sports Xchange


MADISON - Melvin Gordon delivered a passionate halftime speech to Wisconsin’s offense and proceeded to rush for two touchdowns as the No. 19 Badgers got past South Florida 27-10 on Saturday at Camp Randall.

“We needed to rally our offense together and speak up,” the junior running back said of the pep talk he gave with offensive lineman Rob Havenstein.


“We motivated those guys, and we were a different team in the second half. It was my first time stepping up and doing that, speaking to our offensive group as a leader, (and) those guys responded and listened.”

Gordon responded in his own way, running for two touchdowns in the third quarter after his lost fumble halted a drive in the red zone late in the first half.

Gordon finished with 181 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries, one week after scoring five touchdowns against Bowling Green. Sophomore running back Corey Clement collected 77 yards on 16 carries.

Wisconsin quarterback Tanner McEvoy completed 11 of 18 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown as the Badgers (3-1) won their third straight home game.

The Bulls (2-3) were 34-point underdogs in their first meeting against Wisconsin, but they held the Badgers to 139 yards in the first half, including just 60 rushing.

Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said he was pleased the Badgers were able to flip the game in their favor, but he said the slow starts have been a frustrating component of the early season.

“I’m not saying you have to score a touchdown your first drive, but you’ve got to act like it’s a football team that’s going to change the game at any moment on offense, defense or special teams in your favor,” Andersen said.

“It just felt like we were leaving opportunities out on the field, and you just can’t do that. Those kids, they’re frustrated, too. Very happy about the win, but they’re looking forward to Monday.”


South Florida coach Willie Taggart saw perseverance in his team’s first road game, but he said 11 penalties for 90 yards and two turnovers hampered the Bulls’ performance. South Florida also converted on just 2 of 9 third-down situations.

South Florida quarterback Mike White completed just 8 of 19 passes for 173 yards, with an interception.

The Badgers failed to build on the momentum of a record-breaking effort last week in which they set program records for rushing yards (644) and overall yards (756) in a 68-17 rout of Bowling Green.

On Saturday, Wisconsin pushed past a listless half that concluded on Gordon’s turnover with less than a minute left.

With Wisconsin working in the red zone on third down, Gordon fumbled and the ball was recovered by defensive back Nate Godwin on South Florida’s 5-yard line.

The turnover was the second career fumble for Gordon, who lost a fumble last week against Bowling Green.

The teams were tied 3-3 at halftime.

Gordon scored twice in the third quarter, shrugging off three defenders and running 43 yards on his second touchdown, which gave Wisconsin a 17-3 lead with 8:04 left in the quarter.


Not two minutes later, South Florida trimmed Wisconsin’s lead to 17-10 on a 26-yard touchdown run by sophomore wide receiver Rodney Adams.

South Florida tried to take away Wisconsin’s momentum in the fourth quarter after White connected with Kennard Swanson on a 52-yard pass, but Swanson fumbled in the red zone after being a hit by Wisconsin freshman safety Lubern Figaro. That turnover led to the Badgers’ final scoring drive.

“The guys played hard, but we’ve got to execute better,” Taggart said. “We can’t beat ourselves. We moved the ball and hurt ourselves.

“I could count three or four times on third down we had a penalty. That’s when they held the ball longer and we couldn’t get the ball back.”

With Big Ten Conference play beginning next week, Gordon is hopeful the Badgers can string together a complete game. The sense of urgency has been lacking as Wisconsin had sluggish starts in all three of its home games.

Gordon said the slow starts have been annoying.

“We’ve got to do it for four quarters,” he said. “You get into a slow start against a Big Ten opponent and it’s going to be a long game. You might not be able to bounce back or come back. You might be in a deep hole.”

BADGER BITS: Wisconsin opens the Big Ten season next week against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. ... Wisconsin extended its home winning streak to 32 games against nonconference opponents, dating to 2003. ... Wisconsin senior LB Derek Landisch recorded his first career interception and has 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in two games. 

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