PISCATAWAY, N.J. - The hardest part for sophomore running back Corey Clement this week wasn’t preparing for Rutgers’ defense or trying to combat the weather; it was trying to remember all the names on his guest list for his homecoming game.
“I got 41 (tickets), so hopefully everybody came so I didn’t waste any tickets,” said Clement. “That took a lot of time (and) effort, and I had to remember a lot of names, which was kind of hard.”
For those in his travel party who braved the wind and the weather, they certainly weren’t disappointed.
Growing up 75 miles south of Rutgers’ campus in Glassboro, Clement made his only collegiate game in his home state look easy, finishing with 131 yards and two touchdowns in Wisconsin’s 37-0 victory over the Scarlet Knights at Home Point Solutions Stadium.
“That was my purpose to come in here and hopefully not walk out of here with my head down,” said Clement, who outrushed junior Melvin Gordon (128 yards) for the second time this year. “Whether I had a great game or not, I just wanted to come out of here knowing we were victorious.”
Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) needed a spark from its running game with windy conditions making it a challenge to throw the football. The Badgers ran for only 18 yards in the first quarter (their first three drives yielded only 11 yards, two penalties and no touchdowns) as they struggled to figured out the pressures Rutgers’ defensive front was or wasn’t disguising.
Wisconsin kept plugging away until a couple of Clement’s runs opened things up, especially his 43-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. On the play, Clement broke a pair of tackles at the line of scrimmage and delivered a vicious stiff arm at the 15-yard line that crumpled senior cornerback Gareef Glashen to the turf.
“I can only give credit to my o-line,” said Clment. "They did a great job, especially on the 43-yard touchdown. I seen everything shift up front and it just opened up in my eyes, and I had to hit it full speed. I give them all the credit … That was the checkmate of the game, but I think as the remainder of the game went on we had a lot of checkmates that kept pushing them out of trying to get back in the game.”
Clement delivered the final nail in the coffin on a 36-yard fourth-quarter run that capped the scoring. After being frustrated and bothered with his play a month ago, including a season-low six carries for 22 yards in the loss at Northwestern, Clement has run for 385 yards and four touchdowns over the last three games.
“He’s continually grown as a running back,” said Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen. “It was great for him to come home and have a Homecoming and play like this. It’s something he’ll remember for the rest of his life, coming home and playing a game and running the way he did.”
It was a performance that was likely tough to swallow for Rutgers considering Clement is part of a growing trend of highly-ranked New Jersey football players going elsewhere to play college football.
Over the last three recruiting cycles, Rutgers has only been able to successfully recruit seven total players from Scout.com’s list of top 10 recruits from the state, watching ACC and other Big Ten schools pick over the state.
Clement was ranked seventh in 2013, Kyle Flood’s first year, and turned down a Rutgers offer to play in Madison.
“The players decide ultimately where they want to go,” Flood said this week. “I don’t know if it really matters in the end if you were in it a little while or if you recruited him all the way through the process to the last day. He decided that Wisconsin was where he wanted to be.”
With Wisconsin not returning to Jersey until at least 2020, Clement made sure to make his trip count.
“He’s a great teammate,” said quarterback Joel Stave. “He’s a great practice player, and he comes to work every day, but I think you could kind of tell there was a little pep in his step.”