Melvin Gordon is one of the best players in college football. Pretty much anybody will tell you that.
So why, while Saturday night's game was spiraling out of control for the Badgers, did the team's most dependable and explosive offensive weapon disappear?
Gordon, who ran for 140 yards in Wisconsin's 31-24 loss to LSU, had just four carries in the second half. And no one seems to know why.
The first half was all Gordon. He terrorized the LSU defense. And that continued into the third quarter, as the first play of the second half went for a long 63-yard carry for the Heisman hopeful. It was forever then until he touched the ball again, a run for no gain with roughly two minutes left in the third. Then came two fourth-quarter touches, both far apart from one another, with one going for a three-yard gain and the other a loss of two yards.
And that was that.
[MORE BIG TEN: The good, the bad, the B1G: LSU 28, Badgers 24]
Some believed Gordon was injured, perhaps with a tweaked hamstring, on that long run to open the third quarter. Nope. Gordon said he was fine after the game. So what was the deal?
"I don't know," Gordon said when asked what was the deal. "That drive they went with Corey (Clement, backup running back). I think the next drive after that, we were just trying to score. They wanted us to pass protect and get the ball down the field. That's what we were trying to do, trying to score. And we had the confidence, I had the confidence that our receivers could do it. And I felt they could, but we just fell short (Saturday) and that's all that was. We weren't in a position to run the ball. We weren't at all."
But that’s not really true, is it?
After Gordon’s long run, the Badgers scored a touchdown to go up, 24-7. That’s a 17-point lead. If any time ever screamed pound the ball, it was that one. And then the Tigers started their comeback. As the Wisconsin lead grew smaller and smaller, the Badgers apparently felt the need to get a score so quickly that they abandoned the strategy that's worked for the Badgers for the last decade: Run. The. Ball.
[MORE BIG TEN: Westercatch II: Huskers wideout makes behind-the-back catch]
That’s all without mentioning that Wisconsin’s passing game had not just been playing second fiddle Saturday night, it had looked downright terrible. Tanner McEvoy was making his first start and couldn’t have made people more curious as to why exactly he won the job over Joel Stave. The Badgers inexperienced group of receivers? They weren’t doing much, either.
It was a shift in philosophy from something that had worked extremely well to something that hadn’t worked at all. And there was really no reason for it.
They asked Gary Andersen after the game: Why did Gordon only get four carries in the second half?
“Don’t know that,” was Andersen’s reply.
That seems a very strange response, being as he’s the head coach.
There seems to be something missing. What that is, no one knows. No one knows why Gordon stopped getting the ball. But here’s something everyone knows: It’s one of the reasons the Badgers lost the game.