Written by Danny Morales
TAMPA — Melvin Gordon rushed for a Outback Bowl record 251 yards and had three touchdowns as the Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Auburn Tigers 34-31 in overtime in front of an announced attendance of 44,023 at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday.
“Melvin is truly special,” said Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez following the game. “We’ve had a lot of good backs come through here.”
Wisconsin used a field goal from Rafael Gaglianone to take a three-point lead in overtime and then clinched the win when Daniel Carlson’s game-tying 45-yard field goal went bouncing off the upright for Auburn.
The Badgers sent the game to overtime after they converted a 4th and 10 and kicked a game-tying field goal with 0:07 remaining in the game.
Gordon got the Badgers offense started in the second half as he ran for 51 yards on Wisconsin’s opening drive of the half including a 25-yard touchdown which tied the game at 14-14 early in the second half.
Auburn took a 17-14 lead when Carlson hit a career-best 51-yard field goal with 9:32 remaining in the third quarter. But then Gordon put Wisconsin ahead when he broke a 53-yard touchdown run on 4th down to give the Badgers a 20-17 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Gordon ran for 116 yards during the third quarter and his two touchdowns made him just the third player in FBS history with 2,000 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns in a season. The other two players to achieve the task were Barry Sanders and UCF’s Kevin Smith.
“We wanted to open the game throwing the ball, open it up, make them run around maybe try to tire them,” said Alvarez about choice to run it more in the second half. “Loosen them up a little bit because we knew they’d hug the line of scrimmage and the we told the offensive line they had to take the game over in the second half.”
The Heisman runner-up continued his dominance in the fourth quarter when he scored his third touchdown of the game, giving the Badgers a 28-24 lead with 7:58 remaining in the game.
Gordon finished the season with 2,587 yards for the season, which was good enough for the second-best single season rushing performance in FBS history behind Barry Sanders 2,628 yards.
Wisconsin’s 400 net yards rushing against Auburn set a new Outback Bowl record, which was previously 278, as Gordon and backup running back Corey Clement rushed for a combined 369 as a tandem.
Cameron Artis-Payne put the Tigers back on top when he rushed two-yards into the end zone to give Auburn a 31-28 lead with under three minutes to play in regulation. Wisconsin drove the ball down to the 11-yard line on the following drive and Gaglianone sent the game to overtime with his 29-yard field goal after the Badgers had to convert on 4th and 10 to keep the drive alive.
Gaglianone opened overtime with a 25-yard field goal to put Wisconsin ahead and then the Badgers sealed the victory when Carlson’s kick went off the right goal post, giving Wisconsin their 11th win of the season.
“I had a perfect hold, perfect snap,” said Gaglianone about his two big kicks. “So it’s all up to me and it was a short field goal so it’s all about trusting yourself.”
The win was very emotional for the Badgers as it sent off interim head coach Barry Alvarez, who went from being the University’s athletic director to their head coach after Gary Andersen left to coach at Oregon State. The win was the 119th for Alvarez’s coaching career and allowed the long-time Wisconsin coach to go back into retirement with a win in his final game.
“I wanted to send coach Alvarez out in the right direction,” said Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel. “But more importantly I wanted to get it done for the seniors, this is their first bowl win and a fun one at that.”
Now the Badgers will go into the offseason and begin to get acclimated with new head coach Paul Chryst. Wisconsin will open up the 2015 season with a tough matchup against the Alabama Crimson Tide, which will be another opportunity for the Big Ten to show how they can perform against an SEC opponent.
Written by Danny Morales
CLEARWATER — Paul Chryst was named the new head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers football team in mid December and on Tuesday he made an appearance at Clearwater Beach Day where fans were able to see the new head coach for the first time since his hiring.
“I’m happy and proud to be representing the Wisconsin football program,” said Chryst when he talked to fans during Beach Day. “We’re obviously proud to be here and proud to be apart of this.”
His appearance on Tuesday was one of the first time Badgers’ fans were able to see their new head coach since he was brought on to replace Gary Andersen on December 17. Chryst won’t coach Wisconsin during this week’s Outback Bowl, as Athletic Director Barry Alvarez will put on the headset on New Year’s Day.
Becoming the head coach for the Badgers was a homecoming of sorts for Chryst, who was born in Madison, Wisconsin and played his college football for Wisconsin. Chryst was the Badgers’ offensive coordinator from 2005-2011 before he took the head coaching job at Pittsburgh so he has experience coaching at Camp Randall Stadium.
Wisconsin finished the regular season with a 10-3 record and are looking for their first 11-win finish since 2011 with a victory over Auburn on New Year’s Day. Despite the excitement around the program about Chryst’s return, the new head coach doesn’t want the attention of Thursday’s game to be taken away from the players.
“It’s all about this team playing their last game, I think that’s really what it’s about and that’s enough motivation,” said Chryst following his on-stage appearance at Beach Day. “Anytime you win in your last game it helps going into the next season, but first and foremost it’s all about this team playing their last game together.”
Chryst has spent a lot of time around the football team during bowl week, but isn’t doing any coaching as he continues to settle into his new position with the program he’s both played and coached for in the past.
“It’s been great being able to go to practice and really trying to reconnect with guys that I’ve known and meeting and starting to get to know the younger players,” said Chryst about the past two weeks. “So that parts been really good.
“I know a lot of the faces so that certainly helps in the transition. It’s starting to sink in and that’s pretty neat.”
Players have noticed Chryst’s presence out at practice this week as some have even made an extra effort to impress their new head coach, but Chryst’s purpose at practice is to get himself familiar with the team and coaching staff not necessarily to evaluate players.
“Paul is out there every day. He wants to get an idea of the personnel and familiarize himself with them,” said Interim head coach Barry Alvarez. “Out fourth and fifth year guys, know Paul; he recruited some of those guys. They know him already. The young guys, I think certainly are aware he’s around.”
Chryst is 19-19 as a head coach after his two seasons at Pittsburgh and led the Panthers to a win in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2013, but the 49-year-old has had plenty of success at the college level as an offensive coordinator.
Things won’t be easy for Chryst once he takes the helm for the Badgers, as Wisconsin opens up the 2015 season with a neutral site matchup against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Arlington, Texas on September 6. While they will also be spending the offseason trying to fill the void of NCAA leading rusher Melvin Gordon, who is likely to go to the NFL Draft after rushing for 2,336 yards as a junior and getting a nod as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy as a junior.
By Danny Morales
TAMPA — Rushing will be the name of the game when NCAA leading rusher Melvin Gordon and the No. 17 Wisconsin Badgers take on the No. 19 Auburn Tigers in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on New Year's Day.
Both teams feature run heavy offenses, but only the Badgers have this season's leading rusher in Gordon who has ran for 2, 336 this season an earned a nod for the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York City. Wisconsin's offense ranks third in the nation in rushing as they average 314 yards per game on the ground.
Auburn's offense features the SEC's leader in rushing yards with Cameron Artis-Payne, who went for 1,482 yards on the ground this season, as well as dual-threat quarterback Nick Marshall who threw for 2,315 yards and ran for another 780 yards this season, while scoring 29 total touchdowns for the Tigers.
"He's very hard to get down and very athletic and very skilled," said Wisconsin interim head coach Barry Alvarez about stopping Marshall. "Any time that you play someone with that type of ability you better be sound, you better corner the defense and try to have people chase him down and take the proper angles.
"You have to be sound and it's still very difficult to get him down."
Artis-Payne has done a good job stepping into the shoes of Tre Mason this year, as the senior from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has scored 11 touchdowns this season after playing behind Mason during last year's National Championship game run.
"He's had an outstanding year for us," said Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. "He's one of those tough guys that is very coachable. We're very proud to have him and he'll be ready to play."
Wisconsin's fourth ranked defense features a group of linebackers that will be ready for the challenge both Artis-Payne and Marshall present with their feet. The Badgers linebacker corp which feature Vince Biegel, Joe Schobert, Derek Landisch and Marcus Trotter have combined for 52 tackles for loss and 23 sacks this season. With as much as Auburn likes to run the ball these four guys in the middle could play key roles for Wisconsin.
The Tigers will be playing without their leading wide receiver Duke Williams after he was suspended for the bowl game for breaking team rules. Williams had 45 catches for 730 yards and five touchdowns for Auburn, but both the players and coaching staff are confident that have the personnel to fill the void left by Williams absence.
"Obviously it's a blow, but we've played games without him," said Malzahn about missing the junior wide out. "We have guys that we feel very good about that are veteran guys that have made plays for us the last two years. We have a plan and we feel good about it."
One of the players looking to fill in for Williams is junior Melvin Ray who had seven receptions for 177 yards and a touchdown this season. Quan Bray will also catch his share of receptions, but his key role will be on special teams as the senior has returned two of his 15 punts for a touchdown and is averaging 18.1 yards per return.
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez will be coaching the Badgers in the Outback Bowl after former head coach Gary Andersen left to take a head coaching job at Oregon State. Alvarez isn't new to having to step in and coach bowl games, as the hall of fame coach had to step in and coach the Rose Bowl after the 2012 season.
"It was important because the players asked me," said Alvarez about the decision to put the headset back on. "That's what we're in this business for is for the players. I wasn't planning on it and my initial response is that I didn't want to do it. But I think I lend stability to those players."
These teams have only faced each other three times in the past, but the last meeting happened during a bowl game in the Sunshine State, as the Badgers defeated the Tigers 24-10 in the 2006 Capital One Bowl to tie the all-time series at 1-1-1.
Auburn and Wisconsin will face-off in the 2015 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on New Year’s Day at noon EST.
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