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ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Zach Heilprin

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Badgers football: Gordon once again B1G Offensive Player of the Week

Nov 24, 2014 -- 10:22am
Photo/Getty Images
 
MADISON - Another week, another honor for Melvin Gordon.
 
The University of Wisconsin running back was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for his performance against Iowa in a 26-24 win.
 
Gordon ran for 200 yards and in doing so tied former Badger Ron Dayne’s Big Ten single-season rushing record of 2,109 yards. Gordon also scored twice, bringing his total to 25 touchdowns on the ground, the most in the country. He also had a career-high 64 yards on four receptions.
 
By getting to the 2,000 yard mark in 241 carries, the junior became the fastest of the now 17 players in FBS history to reach that number.
 
This is the second-straight week Gordon has won the honor and the third time this year.

Badgers football: Not much movement in the polls

Nov 23, 2014 -- 4:25pm
 
MADISON - Their close win on Saturday didn’t net much movement in the polls for the University of Wisconsin.
 
Following their 26-24 victory over Iowa, the Badgers jumped one spot in the Amway Coaches Poll to No. 14, while staying at No. 14 in the Associated Press poll.
 
Wisconsin is one of four Big Ten teams in both polls. Ohio State sits at No. 7 in each, while Michigan State is No. 8 in the coaches’ poll and No. 10 in the AP poll. Minnesota, who will head to Madison this weekend, is No. 22 in both surveys.
 
The rankings for the College Football Playoff will be revealed on Tuesday night. The Badgers were No. 16 in that poll last week, while Minnesota came in at No. 25.
 
You can view both polls here:

Badgers football: McEvoy runs free, third-down succes, Clement injury

Nov 22, 2014 -- 11:37pm
Photo/USATSI
Tanner McEvoy scored on a 45-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that gave the Badgers a 9-3 lead.
 
IOWA CITY, Iowa - How well blocked was Tanner McEvoy's 45-yard touchdown run in the second quarter on Saturday? The closest the University of Wisconsin quarterback came to going down was the slap on his back from wide receiver Jordan Fredrick just before McEvoy went into the end zone.
 
“Obviously it’s not like I made a spectacular play,” McEvoy said after the Badgers’ 26-24 win over Iowa. “It was pretty well blocked. It was a huge hole and I just ran through it.”
 
That he did and it was the spark Wisconsin needed on offense. The Hawkeyes had bottled up Melvin Gordon to that point in the game, holding him to 31 yards on nine carries. That’s when UW went with their diamond formation, with McEvoy in the shotgun, running back Corey Clement to his left, wide receiver Kenzel Doe behind him and Gordon to his right. It was the first time they had used the package since the Purdue game and it worked to perfection. McEvoy faked the handoff to Gordon, and defensive end Mike Hardy bit hard, tackling the running back while the entire stadium cheered thinking he had the ball.
 
“It’s how we draw it up,” said McEvoy, who ran for a total of 62 yards on six carries. “Melvin’s a great player. It’s tough to ignore him almost getting the ball.”
 
With everyone focused on Gordon, McEvoy busted through the hole and outran a safety before cutting across the field and into the end zone to give UW a 9-3 lead.
 
“I don’t have great top speed, so I tried to use the whole field to my advantage,” McEvoy said of his late cutback.
 
Third-down success
 
The Badgers couldn’t have picked a better time to come out of their season-long slump on third down. After converting just 39 percent of their opportunities this year – ranking ninth in the Big Ten – Wisconsin had their best day of the season in Iowa City.
 
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig's and his group was 7 of 13 (53.8) on the game’s money down – their highest percentage of the season and just the third time all year that they were at 50 percent or better.
 
A majority of the conversions had something in common – Joel Stave. The quarterback was 4 of 5 on third down for 66 yards. Twice on a drive that would give UW a 16-3 lead, Stave found his tight ends for long conversions. He hit Troy Fumagalli for 12 yards on third-and-8, and later found Sam Arneson for 13 yards on third-and-11.
 
Stave and the offense saved their best for last, though. Clinging to a two-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the quarterback recognized the type of pressure Iowa was going to bring on a third-and-8 play. He alerted Melvin Gordon to it and they did what they practiced all week, with the running back bluffing like he was going to stay in to pick up the blitz before running right by the guy assigned to him. Stave dropped a rainbow on him, and Gordon took off for 35 yards and a first down.
 
And then on the final drive of the game, on what you could call the play of the game because of the circumstances, Stave saw nobody open on third-and-8. Instead of forcing the ball into a receiver, the quarterback that has started 24 games tucked it down and took off, gaining 12 yards and the game-clinching first down.
 
“That was fun to be able to convert a couple of third downs on those big drives there in the fourth quarter,” Stave said. “As an offense, that’s exactly what we’ve got to do.”
 
Clement goes down
 
So maybe Corey Clement isn’t as healthy as reporters were led to believe leading up to the game.
 
The running back injured his shoulder on a 17-yard touchdown run against Nebraska last week. He returned to that game and UW coach Gary Andersen said he would have no limitations against the Hawkeyes. But the sophomore made it less than two quarters before having to leave the field after apparently reinjuring himself when trying to sell a play-action pass.
 
“We thought he’d be ready to go,” said Andersen, adding that if Clement was absolutely needed he could have come in.
 
Clement’s injury left only former cornerback Dare Ogunbowale available at running back, a guy that hasn’t played a single snap of meaningful football on offense. So, like a week ago, Andersen was forced to take a timeout after a long Gordon run to give the star tailback a chance to rest.
 
Obviously that’s not ideal so getting Clement back would be significant.
 
“Corey should be ready to go (against Minnesota),” the second-year coach said. “We’re just trying to let that heal up and get him where he needs to be with his shoulder.”

Badgers football: Zagzebski expects to play

Nov 20, 2014 -- 9:14pm
Photo/Getty Images
 
MADISON - The University of Wisconsin will be tested in the trenches on Saturday against Iowa, so it’s a good thing they’ll have one of their better defensive linemen available.
 
UW coach Gary Andersen said Thursday that defensive end Konrad Zagzebski looked to be moving pretty good despite an ankle injury suffered against Purdue on Nov. 8 and that he expects him to go this week.
 
“I expect that to happen and we really need that to happen, especially this week against this offensive line,” Andersen said. “We can’t just hang in there with the same three or four guys the whole game.”
 
Zagzebski started against Nebraska but tweaked the ankle on the first play of the game and was removed for good after about 10 snaps.
 
“I couldn’t sustain and hold blocks as well as I would like to for the back end,” Zagzebski said. “I stayed warm and once the offense started to roll and the defense started to play they just kind of said, ‘Stay warm. If we need you, if someone goes down be ready.’”
 
On Wednesday, the senior said he felt a lot better this week than last and he believes he’ll be close to 100 percent come game time.
 
That should be the case for Corey Clement, too. The running back suffered a shoulder injury on his first half touchdown run against Nebraska. He eventually returned and finished the day with five carries for 22 yards. The sophomore was in a no-contact jersey to start the week but Andersen has no concerns with his availability on Saturday.
 
“He should be full steam,” the second-year coach said. “He looked good (on Thursday). He really looked good all week. We were a little precautionary early on but he’s fine.”

Badgers football: Commit No. 24 in the fold

Nov 18, 2014 -- 7:08pm
 
MADISON - The University of Wisconsin pulled in commitment No. 24 on Tuesday.
 
Virginia Beach (Ocean Lakes) cornerback T.J. Griffin, who made his official visit this past weekend, gave his verbal commitment to the Badgers.
 
A 3-star player according to ESPN, Griffin chose the Badgers over offers from Oregon, Duke and Virginia among others.
 
The 5-foot-9, 167-pound, Griffin is rated as the No. 23 player in the state of Virginia.
 

Badgers football: Gordon compared to Sanders

Nov 17, 2014 -- 11:56pm
Photo/via ESPN.com
 
MADISON - What Barry Sanders did in 1988 is remarkable. 2,628 rushing yards in just 11 games, an average of 238.9 yards per game, is a season for the ages. When talk of Melvin Gordon possibly challenging that total this year is brought up, many say it would be an amazing feat but pale in comparison to Sanders because it would take the University of Wisconsin running back at least 13 games to do it. And they’re right in a sense. But when you put the two seasons next to each other – Sanders in 1988 and Gordon in 2014 – a number jumps out and it’s not the yards. It’s the carries.
 
Oklahoma State gave Sanders, on average, 31.3 carries per game in the regular season. Gordon, meanwhile, is sitting at 223 through 10 games, for an average of 22.3 touches per game. If the Wisconsin tailback was fed the ball the same amount as Sanders was that year, he’d already have 2,679 yards instead of the 1,909 he’s sitting on right now.
 
Now you can’t short Sanders for his durability, and who knows if Gordon would be able to handle that load or keep his per carry average this year of 8.56 yards. Still, when someone says Sanders did it in 11 games, someone else should note he got the ball nine more times per game than Gordon.
 
Zagzebski’s status a little unclear
 
It seemed too good to be true and maybe it was.
 
Senior Konrad Zagzebski surprised everyone last week when he returned to practice just days after suffering what appeared to be a significant ankle injury. He got the start against Nebraska but made it only a couple of series before he was forced to the sideline due to the ankle.
 
“(Zagzebski) didn't feel 100% on his ankle,” UW coach Gary Andersen said. “I don't know how many snaps (he played) but Coach Chad and Konrad communicated with each other at some point and Konrad felt like he couldn’t push off the way he needed to. He did not have a setback, feels much better (on Monday) than he did the beginning of last week, so I expect him to be ready to play. 
 
“Looking back it's probably a great move by Konrad and by Coach Chad to take him out and give him the rest when he didn't feel 100% rather than tweaking it and taking a step backwards.”
 
Having Zagzebski back in the lineup is significant against a team like Iowa, who play a smash mouth style of offense that is similar to Wisconsin’s. That means UW will likely use a lot of three-man fronts and not having the senior defensive lineman could force some adjustments.
 
Minnesota start time announced
 
Wisconsin will finish the season against Minnesota on Nov. 29 and will do so with a kickoff time of 2:30 p.m.
 
The Big Ten made the announcement on Monday.
 
It’ll be the Badgers third-straight mid-afternoon kick time after spending most of the year playing at 11 a.m.
 
UW has won 10 straight games in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, including a 20-7 victory in the Twin Cities last year.
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