MADISON - Melvin Gordon has had plenty of moments for No.14 Wisconsin, a season that will likely bring him many awards and accolades in the next couple weeks. On Saturday, it was Corey Clement’s opportunity to shine.
After being lightly used the past two weeks, Clement made his first two carries count, scoring a 28-yard touchdown run and a 31-yard run that set up another, as the Badgers earned a come-from-behind 34-24 victory over No.22 Minnesota Saturday.
Wisconsin (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) broke a two-game losing streak on senior day, won Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the 11th straight season and keep the Big Ten West Division title all to themselves.
All those accomplishments mean UW will face No.7 Ohio State (11-1, 8-0) next Saturday in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis and will face the Buckeyes without star quarterback J.T. Barrett, who suffered a fractured right ankle in the Buckeyes’ 42-28 home win over Michigan.
It appeared for a substantial time that the Badgers would have been watching that contest unfold on television after sleep walking through most of the first half. Although outgaining Minnesota 201-153 in the first half, UW trailed 17-13 after a large amount of mental errors – mainly on special teams – that helped the Gophers carry momentum.
UW finally burst ahead midway through the third quarter when Clement – who has nursed a shoulder injury the last two weeks – took his first carry for a 28-yard touchdown that gave the Badgers their first lead of the game.
Two drives later, Clement struck again with a 31-yard run between the tackles down to the one-yard line, which Gordon cashed in to improve the score to 27-17.
Quarterback Mitch Leidner rushed for his second touchdown on the next drive to cut the lead back to three, but sophomore Rob Wheelwright – whose older brother, Ernie Wheelwright, played for Minnesota – delivered the dagger with 4:41 left, as his first catch of the season went for a 17-yard touchdown.
Rushing for 55 yards on 14 carries in the first half, Melvin Gordon finished with 145 yards on 28 carries, finishing the regular season rushing for at least 100 yards against every FBS opponent on the schedule. With just over three minutes remaining, however, Gordon got his right ankle twisted and limped off the field. It appeared to be fine
Alex Erickson finished with 160 yards on five catches, only the third time this season a UW receiver went over 100 receiving yards, all of which have come from Erickson.
For the Gophers (8-4, 5-3), which fell to 20-1 when leading at halftime under head coach Jerry Kill.
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2 plays, 13 yards, :43 TOP, 12:31 left
Mitch Leidner 10-yard run (Ryan Santoso kick)
Key Play: Wisconsin forced a three-and-out on the first series of the game, but gave the ball right back to Minnesota on the ensuing punt with Kenzel Doe fumbling on the UW 13.
12 plays, 69 yards, 5:34 TOP, 6:48 left
FG Rafael Gaglianone 24
Key Play: Joel Stave's scramble on third-and-2 went nowhere, but a holding call on Minnesota down the field gave the Badgers an automatic first down to the Minnesota 29. On the next play, Gordon broke off a 23-yard run in which Minnesota safety Cedric Thompson made a touchdown-saving tackle.
1 play, 40 yards, :09 TOP, 1:56 left
David Cobb 40-yard run (Santoso kick)
Key Play: Wisconsin did nothing in its second series and Drew Meyer didn't help matters with only a 36-yard punt, giving Minnesota outstanding field position the Gophers again converted into seven points.
10 plays, 30 yards, 4:12 TOP, 10:48 left
FG Ryan Santoso 37
Key Play: Mitch Leidner first pass completion was a big one, as he hit receiver KJ Maye for 19 yards on third-and-6, getting the Gophers down to the UW 13-yard line.
6 plays, 80 yards, 2:52 TOP, 4:39 left
Melvin Gordon 4-yard pass from Joel Stave (Gaglianone kick)
Key Play: The wide-open receiver has sometimes been the hardest pass to complete this season for Wisconsin, but Stave did not miss Alex Erickson uncovered down the sidelines, a play that went for 70 yards down to the Minnesota 4.
3 plays, 49 yards, :18 TOP, 0:00 left
FG Gaglianone 38
Key Play: Minnesota was in prime position to pad its lead, but David Cobb fumbled a handoff on third-and-2 that Michael Caputo at the UW 31. On the next play, Stave hit Alex Erickson for 35 yards down to the Minnesota 34.
7 plays, 80 yards, 3:37 TOP, 6:20 left
Corey Clement 28-yard run (Gaglianone kick)
Key Play: On his first carry of the game, Corey Clement's rested legs served him well, breaking through tackle attempts and barreling into the end zone.
6 plays, 69 yards, 2:34 TOP, 10:57 left
Melvin Gordon 1-yard run (Gaglianone kick)
Key Play: Clement has come alive in the second half for Wisconsin. His 31-yard run between the tackles sets up an insurance touchdown for UW.
7 plays, 75 yards, 3:25 TOP, 7:32 left
Mitch Leidner 2-yard run (Santoso kick)
Key Play: In one of the worst coverage busts of the season, Wisconsin did not cover tight end Maxx Williams - who had been without a catch all gain - and one of the nation's top tight ends made them pay with a 53-yard catch-and-run down to the UW 3.
6 plays, 75 yards, 2:51 TOP, 4:41 left
Rob Wheelwright 17-yard pass from Stave (Gaglianone kick)
Key Play: Minnesota looked like they forget Wheelwright was still on the team (many UW fans probably did, too), as Wheelwright was uncovered on an inside post route for his first catch of the season.
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