Melvin Gordon is one of the most dynamic playmakers in college football. So it came as a huge surprise when the Wisconsin running back had just 16 carries in a season-opening 28-24 loss to LSU—including just two touches in the fourth quarter.
Following the game, head coach Gary Andersen spoke about the lack of carries for Gordon in the second half, per Zach Heilprin of ESPNWisconsin.com:
Gary Andersen said Melvin Gordon was fine. Doesn't know why he didn't carry the ball more than two times.— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) August 31, 2014
That's a pretty befuddling comment from the head coach—you know, the one who is in charge of the program.
Even with his limited touches in the second half, Gordon made the most of his opportunities. The junior led all running backs in the game with 140 yards, a touchdown and an 8.8 yards-per-carry average.
While Kenny Hilliard was asked to bring his team back for LSU, Gordon's team seemed to ask little of its All-Big Ten back. That led to plenty of questions from analysts like Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated and Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:
If he's healthy, why the heck isn't Melvin Gordon in the game? And getting the ball more? He's 15-142. Clement is 14-42.— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) August 31, 2014
Melvin Gordon's healthy enough to pass block but can't get any more handoffs?— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) August 31, 2014
Meanwhile, Paul Myerberg of USA Today came to his own conclusion during the game:
Wisconsin must be saving Melvin Gordon for Western Illinois.— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) August 31, 2014
Needless to say, the plans need to change moving forward. While any chance of a national championship is likely gone with a loss for the Badgers, a successful season is still on the table if Gordon is asked to lead.
As players such as Todd Gurley of Georgia exploded in Week 1, Gordon simply wasn't asked to do enough in order to make his case as one of the best players in the country. Though Gurley had one fewer handoff than Gordon, his team had a healthy lead late against Clemson.
Here's a look at the two players' statistics after their first games of the season.
|Player||Carries||Rush Yds||YPC||Rush TDs|
|Todd Gurley||15 (11 in second half)||198||13.2||3|
|Melvin Gordon||16 (four in second half)||140||8.8||1|
Gurley clearly did more with fewer carries, but his team also relied him less. Even with LSU closing in and eventually winning, Gordon was not asked to carry his team—literally and figuratively.
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report also added his take on the running back situation:
In the Battle for RB1, Week 1 goes to Todd Gurley. Mike Davis, Melvin Gordon need to show up next week.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 31, 2014
While it might not be fair to say that Gordon didn't "show up," getting called upon more might help his case.
Following the heartbreaking loss to LSU, Wisconsin still has plenty to play for the rest of the season. With two cupcakes on the schedule in Western Illinois and Bowling Green at home the next two weeks, Gordon will have a chance to thrust his name back near the top of the running back conversation.
Thanks to a favorable schedule that includes Nebraska and Iowa late in the season, Gordon has a chance to shine the rest of the way. And if the Badgers plan on getting back on track, they'll need to unleash their most talented player.
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