Melvin Gordon delivers Outback Bowl win in Wisconsin Badgers finale


Any more questions about Melvin Gordon’s chops?

After his counterpart in the Outback Bowl, Cameron Artis-Payne, was quoted on ESPN’s broadcast that he would have liked to have gotten the chance to play against Northwestern, Illinois and Purdue.

But as Artis-Payne and the rest of his teammates learned, guys outside the SEC can do some things as well.

Gordon, Wisconsin’s Doak Walker Award winner, Gordon got the last laugh, rushing for an Outback Bowl-record 251 yards with three touchdowns and the Wisconsin Badgers outlasted Auburn in overtime, 34-31, Thursday afternoon in Tampa, Fla.

The junior from Racine finished his amazing season with 2,587 yards—second-most in FBS history and just 41 yards shy of the record of 2,628 set by Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders in 1988.

The Badgers (11-3) had to overcome three interceptions from Joel Stave (Greenfield)—all in Auburn territory and two that were inside the 10-yard line—and then had to survive a field-goal attempt from Daniel Carlson that clanked off the upright to end Auburn’s overtime possession.

Gordon showed off everything on a critical fourth-and-1 play from the Badgers’ 47. Interim coach Barry Alvarez rolled the dice and went for it and Gordon—behind a great effort from the offensive line and fullback Derek Watt (Pewaukee)—broke into the secondary, put a move on Tigers safety Jermaine Whitehead and then showed both speed and strength to hold off Whitehead on a 53-yard touchdown that gave Wisconsin a 21-17 lead with 20 seconds left in the third quarter.

Auburn came back to take the lead on the next possession.

Artis-Payne and Corey Grant each had 21-yard runs on the 81-yard drive, capped when Nick Marshall hit C.J. Uzomah for a 20-yard touchdown down the right side.

Jan 1, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Auburn Tigers kicker Daniel Carlson (38) misses a field goal in overtime against the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2015 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Auburn Tigers in overtime 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Gordon, Corey Clement and Kenzel Doe carried the freight on Wisconsin’s answering drive. Gordon’s 6-yard touchdown capped a seven-play,  70-yard, all-on-the-ground drive that included runs of 25 yards on a jet sweep by Doe, bursts of 13 and 11 by Clement on back-to-back plays and a 13-yard dash by Gordon.

The tiring Badger defense couldn’t hold and Auburn (8-5) went right back down the field.

The key play on the drive was a pass interference call against Wisconsin cornerback Sojourn Shelton against Sammie Coates in the end zone on a fourth-and-11 play. Artis-Payne hammered in a 2-yard score to give the Tigers a 31-28 lead with 2:55 to play.

Wisconsin got it into field goal range, however—helped by a huge penalty against Auburn linebacker Kris Frost, who drilled Gordon with a late hit out of bounds to tack 15 yards onto the end of a 20-yard gain. Stave, who was awful at times, made the throws he needed to make to get the Badgers close enough for Rafael Gaglianone to drill a 29-yard field goal with seven seconds left in regulation.

Wisconsin got the ball first in overtime and Stave connected with tight end Troy Fumagalli for 14 yards and a big third-and-8 conversion. Watt got the ball to the Auburn 7 and Melvin Gordon had a game-saving play when Stave was stepped on by a lineman before he could get the handoff.

He juggled the ball, corraled it and managed to get to the line of scrimmage.

Gaglianone booted a 25-yard field goal to put the Badgers up 34-31.

Wisconsin’s defense—gashed for 435 yards by Auburn after it was gutted for 558 yards by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game—stood tall on the overtime possession.

Junior linebacker Joe Schobert (Waukesha) stopped Artis-Payne for a 2-yard loss on first-and-10, broke through the line to bring down Coates on a screen pass for no gain and then didn’t get fooled on a double pass, staying with Marshall and bringing him down for a 1-yard loss after Uzomah threw the ball back across the field to the quarterback following a lateral.

Carlson—who had made a 51-yard kick earlier in the game and missed a 44-yarder in the third quarter—pushed the ball right off the left hashmarks and it clunked off the right upright to secure Wisconsin’s first bowl victory since a 20-14 win over Miami in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl.

That earned Alvarez this:

Wisconsin rushed for an Outback Bowl-record 400 yards as a team and rang up 521 yards of total offense. Clement, the heir apparent with Gordon leaving for the NFL Draft, finished with 105 yards on 15 carries. Stave was 14-for-27 for 121 yards and a touchdown pass to Clement in the first quarter as well as the three picks.

Marshall was 15-for-22 for 217 yards and two scores for Auburn. Artis-Payne finished with 126 yards and two scores on 26 carries.

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