Flying High

Whether it was senior James White or sophomore Melvin Gordon, No.24 Wisconsin's running game couldn't be stopped, as the Badgers averaged 8.1 yards per carry and rushed for five touchdowns in a 41-10 victory over Purdue.

MADISON - After James White broke a tackle and utilized a stutter set for a career-long 70 yard touchdown run late in the first quarter, the senior knew what the reaction of sophomore and good friend Melvin Gordon was going to be on the sidelines.

"I didn't say anything to him," said White. "He said he had to go out there and get him one now. That's pretty much what happens each and every time."

With two elite-level running backs having a "friendly competition," Wisconsin's running game continues to pace a Badgers team that started its quest for a fourth straight conference title with a firm statement that it's not going to give up its crown lying down.

Gordon answered White's unspoken challenge with 147 rushing yards and three touchdowns Saturday afternoon, as No.24 Wisconsin drubbed Purdue, 41-10, in the Big Ten conference opener for both teams.

No matter which tailback had the ball, the Badgers (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) had little trouble finding running room against a Purdue defense that was allowing only 117 yards per game on the ground entering the day.

A year after the Badgers rushed for 467 and four scores in West Lafayette, Wisconsin finished with 388 yards and five touchdowns, winning its eighth straight game in the series, and got a needed refresher coming off last weekend's controversy at Arizona State.

"The conference started today for us," said Gordon. "It was big to make a statement today."

Not only has Gordon rushed for at least 140 yards in every game this season, he surpassed last year's rushing total of 621 yards by three; something he attributes to practicing harder.

"I try to practice as hard as I can so I can be comfortable coming into game day," said Gordon, who now leads the nation in rushing yards. "That carries on with James and Corey. We try to practice as hard as we can so we can carry the team if we have to."

He carried the load on UW's first scoring drive, carrying the ball five times for 55 yards and his five-yard touchdowns, and scored on a 27-yard run by breaking through multiple tackle attempts. It was also the backbreaker for Purdue (1-3, 0-1 Big Ten), which had scored 10 straight points in a 2:15 span to cut the lead to 14-10.

"Definitely one of the best I've been around," senior Ryan Groy said of Gordon, who added a 15-yard touchdown run in the third quarter for good measure. "I could tell that when he was here last year and the last couple years. He's been playing great. He's a hard runner to bring down."

White, who has been overshadowed because of Gordon's efficiency, rushed for 143 yards, including that 70-yard run that gave Wisconsin six plays of 50-plus yards last season; just three less than UW had all of last season.

Even Corey Clement got in on the action late in the first quarter, rushing for 83 yards and a touchdown as a final bullet point.

"We can really do a lot of things," said White, who had his 12th career 100-yard rushing game, of the running game. "We have a great offensive linemen, great receivers and tight ends that do a great job blocking for us."

One of the biggest issues for Wisconsin through four games last season was the consistency of its offense, forced to rely on its defense to grind out games while the offense tried to scrap together enough points to try to get by.

Those days appear to be firmly in the past. Wisconsin had eight plays of 20+ yards against the Boilermakers, giving them 27 for the season. After four games last year, Wisconsin only had 11 of those plays.

"It's been huge," said Groy. "It brings your momentum up, you get super excited (and) gets the fans into it."

Although Wisconsin's defense finally allowed a visiting opponent to score points on them this season, the Badgers didn't allow much to a Purdue offense that ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense, rushing offense and passing efficiency.

The Badgers limited Purdue to 135 passing yards – a far cry from the 352 Taylor Kelly threw against their secondary last week – and no points after forcing the Boilermakers to kick a 24-yard field goal with 9:44 to go in the second quarter despite the Boilermakers having a first down at the UW 10.

Wisconsin gave up only 180 total yards, lowering its average to 243.3 yards per game.

"We've been put in some spots this year and reacted well every time," said Borland, as Wisconsin scored the game's final 27 points after that field goal. "Not that was just another scenario … It was a great job by our guys."

Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen called the last week "interesting," considering he and his players spent most of the week answering questions about the final 18 seconds of the Arizona State game than the conference opener.

And considering what happened, Andersen wanted his team to come out angry.

"That should carry with them for a long, long time," said Andersen. "That should give them a little chip on their shoulder. Hopefully that carries with them as we move forward."

The big question is, will it? Time will tell, especially next weekend in Columbus.

"It's just getting started," said Borland. "It's not as if we'll ever forget that. We're going to play with the idea of taking frustration out on our opponents all year."


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