Melvin Gordon’s career day not enough as Wisconsin Badgers throw away game at Northwestern


Despite Melvin Gordon’s huge day, bad quarterback play doomed the Wisconsin Badgers, who stumbled on the first step of the Big Ten conference season Saturday at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill., with a 20-14 loss to the Northwestern Wildcats.

The Badgers (3-2, 0-1) got 259 yards—a career-high—on 27 carries, but junior quarterback Tanner McEvoy was so awful that last year’s starter, Joel Stave, was brought on in relief late in the first half.

Live Feed

Michigan State Basketball: Takeaways from Spartans' loss to Wisconsin
Michigan State Basketball: Takeaways from Spartans' loss to Wisconsin /

Busting Brackets

  • 3 ranked college basketball teams on upset alert this weekFanSided
  • Every College Football Head Coach's Against the Spread Record in Bowl GamesBetsided
  • Opening Odds for Every College Football Bowl GameBetsided
  • Ranking top 6 contenders for transfer QB Cameron WardSaturday Blitz
  • How many Big Ten teams made bowl games in 2023? Schedule, dates and full listFanSided
  • McEvoy was benched after throwing three straight incompletions with the Badgers trailing 10-0 late in the first half.

    Stave came on and handed the ball off twice to Gordon for 26 yards before he was sacked by Xavier Washington and Collin Ellis on the final play of the half.

    McEvoy was 4-for-10 for 24 yards and was intercepted once. Stave finished 8-for-19 for 114 yards with a touchdown and three picks.

    Northwestern (3-2, 2-0) did not turn the ball over.

    On a wet, windy, chilly day in suburban Chicago, the Badgers had the first chance to score, driving to the Wildcats’ 20 on their first possession.

    But McEvoy’s pass into the end zone was off target and Godwin Igwubuike made the interception in for a touchback.

    Oct 4, 2014; Evanston, IL, USA; Northwestern Wildcats safety Godwin Igwebuike (16) celebrates with teammates Traveon Henry (10) and Jimmy Hall (9) after intercepting a pass intended for Wisconsin Badgers tight end Sam Arneson (49) during the second half at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    Northwestern took advantage, marching 74 yards on 13 plays to set up a 22-yard field goal by Jack Mitchell with 4:27 to go in the first period. Trevor Siemian, who was 15-for-29 for 182 yards and a touchdown, had a pair of 18-yard completions on the drive, one to Austin Carr and the other to Jayme Taylor.

    The Badgers got a great return from Kenzel Doe on the ensuing kickoff, taking it all the way to the Northwestern 45. But a holding call negated the return and the drive instead started at the Wisconsin 10.

    Yeah, it was that sort of a day.

    After Drew Meyer banged a punt 52 yards into the end zone, the Wildcats put together their first touchdown drive that ate up almost seven minutes of the second quarter.

    The 15-play, 80-yard march was capped by Siemien’s 5-yard pass to Dan Vitale that put Northwestern ahead 10-0.

    Siemian’s 35-yard completion to Tony Jones was the big play on the drive.

    Wisconsin closed to 10-7 on the first drive of the second half, with Gordon doing much of the work.

    Gordon broke loose for a 61-yard run down to the Northwestern 14 on the second play from scrimmage and capped the drive with a 2-yard run.

    Oct 4, 2014; Evanston, IL, USA; Northwestern Wildcats defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo (7) pressures Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Joel Stave (2) into throwing an interception during the second half at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    The Wildcats pinned Wisconsin deep in their own end after a punt and on third-and-5 from the Badgers’ 11, Stave’s pass was picked off by Jimmy Hall.

    On the very next play, Miles Shuler ran it in from 16 yards out to put the Wildcats up 17-7.

    Wisconsin’s day of missed opportunities continued on its next possession. After driving to the Northwestern 32, the drive stalled and freshman Rafael Gaglianone missed a 50-yard field goal.

    The Wildcats’ answer was to go 63 yards on 11 plays for another 22-yard field goal from Mitchell and a 20-7 lead with 14:14 remaining in the game.

    The Badgers pinned Northwestern deep on a terrific pooch punt by Meyer that was downed at the Wildcats’ 4. After a three-and-out, Wisconsin marched to the Northwestern 3-yard-line, where Stave’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by Igwebuike.

    The Badgers made it 20-14 with 4:16 to go, completing a 43-yard drive in just two plays—a 24-yard completion from Stave to Sam Arneson and a 19-yard touchdown hookup between Stave and Doe.

    Wisconsin got the ball back at its own 20 with 33 seconds left, but Stave’s second pass of the drive was picked off by Igwubuike—his third pick of the afternoon—and that finished off the Badgers.

    Justin Jackson paced the Northwestern ground game with 162 tough yards on 33 carries.

    Afterward, coach Gary Andersen told reporters that Stave could start when the Badgers host Illinois next Saturday.

    "“It could very well move in that direction if it’s best for us because we have not proven to be effective enough to be what I would call a stable offense, if you will. I don’t care about yards. I don’t care about all the other stuff.“Just a functioning offense that allows us to win Big Ten games and the game changes when you walk into the Big Ten. We all know that and we understand that. So if that means we have to adapt the offensive system and the scheme this year to help ourselves, as a football team, to have both of those schemes I’m talking about, because we are different than a year ago.“We’ve got to get better at it and we’re excited to help them get there.”"

    Stave said he was excited to see his first game action since injuring his shoulder in the Outback Bowl against South Carolina on Jan. 1.

    "“I feel good, I thought I made some good throws [Saturday]. You’re going to miss some throws and I did that too, but I felt good playing again, I felt good throwing the ball. I thought we did some good things offensively.”"

    Of course, almost all of those good things happened when the ball was handed to Gordon, rather than thrown by either McEvoy or Stave.

    The Badgers and Fighting Illini meet at 11 a.m. next Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in a game that will be aired nationally on ESPN2.