MADISON - Tight end Sam Arneson understands that there’s probably a good amount of undecided voters among the approximate 900 people who vote for the Heisman Trophy with three weeks to go.
So as a public service announcement, Wisconsin’s senior tight end politely asks you to put on the game film from junior tailback Melvin Gordon’s performance against No.11 Nebraska, sit back and enjoy.
“If you watched, you’d think he’s the best player in the country, and I think he is,” said Arneson. “The way he has played this year at times, putting us on his back, a performance like that says it all about how special his season has been, how special a player he is and why he deserves that Heisman Trophy.”
Gordon’s performance in the 59-24 victory over No.11 Nebraska has generated plenty of national buzz – four rushing touchdowns, 16.3 yards per carry and 408 rushing yards in only three quarters, breaking the school, conference and national single game rushing records in a seven minute stretch.
But there’s more to Gordon than just one game. Chew on these numbers from Gordon, who is making a strong case to be awarded the 80th Heisman Trophy in New York City Dec.13:
- Leading the nation with 1,909 rushing yards on the season, fourth-best in school history, Gordon is averaging 190.9 yards per game this season and 8.56 yards per carry. With three games to go, he’s 200 yards away from tying Ron Dayne’s single season school rushing record and is on pace to surpass Barry Sanders’ single-season rushing record of 2,628.
- Gordon has four 200-yard rushing games this season. Dayne, who had five 200-yard rushing games in both 1996 and 1999, is the only other Badger to run for at least 200 yards in a game four times in one season.
- Gordon rushed for at least 100 yards for the eighth straight game and the ninth time in 10 games this season. He has 19 career 100-yard games in his career.
- Gordon had a 42-yard run in the first quarter, a 62-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, a 44-yard run in the second quarter and a 43-yard run in the third quarter, giving him 14 runs this season of at least 40 yards and 24 in his career. Gordon has four runs this season of at least 60 yards and 11 in his career. Before Saturday, Nebraska had allowed five runs of at least 30 yards.
- Gordon has scored at least two touchdowns in seven of the last eight games and has 25 on the season. That is the second-best single-season total in school history, trailing only Montee Ball’s NCAA-record 39 in 2011.
“He’s the best of the best,” said Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen.
In its first nine games, Nebraska allowed 123.8 rushing yards per game on 3.7 per carry, making the Huskers a top 20 defense. Gordon racked up more yards on the ground in the second quarter alone (189) than any previous offense had against Nebraska. He also did it again in the third quarter, when he piled up 170 yards.
When LaDainain Tomlinson did it against a UTEP team that finished the season 5-7 overall and ranked 100th out of 114 FBS schools in rushing defense, he needed 43 carries and 166 yards in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska was 20th against the run but fell 55 spots to 75th in large part to Gordon, who also had more rushing yards in one game that Wake Forest has generated in 10 games this season (341).
It was such a ridiculous performance that senior linebacker Marcus Trotter, who played against Gordon in high school, rushed through his unit’s corrections so he could get to the sidelines for a front row seat.
“It’s cool because I’ve seen how hard he works,” said Trotter. “He reminds me of Chris Borland a lot. Even though they have a lot of skill and ability, they are still the first person in and the last person to leave. They work so hard in the weight room. Everything he gets he deserves. I’m his teammate, but I am definitely a fan of his.”
Gordon is now averaging 225.5 yards per game against Big Ten teams, averaging 213.6 yards and 11.1 yards per carry vs. FBS teams with winning records, 13.4 yards per carry against ranked teams and is a model of consistency, rushing for 993 yards in the first half of games and 916 in the second half.
“It's a luxury I've never had before as a coach,” said Andersen. “I can promise you that much.”
Most straw Heisman polls have Gordon running second behind Oregon junior quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is completing 68.5 percent of his passes and has thrown for 2,677 yards and 26 touchdowns to just two interceptions. And while Mariota has the Ducks 9-1 overall and in the thick of the four-team College Football Playoff, the best UW can hope for is a fourth Big Ten championship in five years.
Gordon also has to break the stigma of the Heisman Trophy turning into who is the best quarterback. Since Dayne won the award in 1999, 12 quarterbacks have won the award compared to only two tailbacks and none since Alabama’s Mark Ingram in 2009.
Compare the numbers, however, Gordon already has gained 251 more yards, scored five more touchdowns and averaging 2.5 more yards per carry than Ingram’s winning year.
But asked after his team whipped Nebraska if his performance decided the Heisman race, Gordon simply said “More Games.” He’s already focused on Iowa.
“He never seems to feel impressed with himself,” said Trotter. “It’s great to see what he does, but at the same time we expect it with the way he carries himself and with how hard he works.”