In Gene Rayburn style, a local radio station asked the following Sunday morning via Facebook:
“Melvin Gordon’s record-breaking 408 yard rushing day is the greatest athletic performance since ________.”
Many answered Aaron Rodgers throwing six touchdowns in the first half six days earlier. Gordon’s historic Saturday remained the greatest event until Rodgers stepped back onto Lambeau Field less than 24 hours later.
I cannot think of a better weekend for the simulated warfare known as football in Wisconsin. Without debating what’s better, it is a great time to be a Wisconsin sports fan. Many will be replaying the Badgers and Packers in their minds this week to make sure they believe what they saw.
On a day with conditions at Camp Randall Stadium colder than a well digger’s behind, the Badgers’ game did not start well. The Nebraska Cornhuskers punched Wisconsin in the mouth, and a player reportedly displayed an upside down “W” sign to the student section after the Huskers went up 17-3 early in the second quarter. That would be a Minnesota M.
On Twitter I noted the Badgers were being outplayed and that Bo Pelini appeared to have a better game plan than Gary Andersen. I said it, and didn’t delete after my analysis became wrong. The Freedom Trophy appeared like it would be headed to Lincoln.
Then Gordon’s historic show began, a blizzard of 359 yards in less than two quarters as the Badgers scored 52 unanswered points. This would be the same Gordon who racked up 216 yards in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game (also against Nebraska), that’s a total of 614 yards on 34 carries against a name program that prides itself on defense. A Blackshirts practice jersey should now include tread marks, I know Adidas can make that happen. But Husker Nation still has the moral victory of Kenny Bell’s illegal block.
The Badgers’ defense is more worthy of the “Blackshirts” label, as it held Ameer Abdullah in check and is now allowing an average of 244 yards per game, leading all of FBS football over second-place Clemson (262 YPG). Not bad for an outfit that replaced eight starters over the offseason.
Coach Andersen called off the dogs in the fourth quarter, which was played in an intensifying snowfall camouflaging Nebraska’s all-white outfits, rendering the Huskers as invisible as they already been figuratively.
And how dare the two schools create a new trophy for propaganda’s sake. Arkansas and LSU started their own gimmick trophy 20 years ago, never mind the fact that Fayetteville to Baton Rouge is a long commute. But it was good for Bret Bielema to finally win something.
And if you need it, this weekend J.J. Watt recorded a sack, three TFL’s, a touchdown reception, a fumble recovery and two roughing the punter penalties in Cleveland. Hitting for a cycle reminiscent of a Gordie Howe hat trick.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers decided they would not be totally upstaged as they destroyed and embarrassed the Philadelphia Eagles just as they did the Chicago Bears.
More records fell along the way. For the first time ever, the Packers dropped 50-plus points in consecutive weeks. In its last four home games Green Bay has outscored its opposition 128-9 in the first half, and 188-61 overall. That sounds like Alabama’s non-conference results.
What does it mean for the local gridiron landscape?
Thanks to the early season loss to LSU and hiccup at Northwestern, the Badgers don’t have to worry about the elitists running the College Football Playoff. Wisconsin does control its own destiny in the Big Ten West Division, and would advance to a probable meeting against Ohio State with wins at Iowa and against Minnesota.
Then there is Melvin Gordon, who went from Heisman hopeful to probable Heisman finalist and possible Heisman front-runner in an hour and a half. At the very least he is now a household name nationally and his final two or three games will be followed closely.
I cannot think of a NFL team playing better ball than the Packers, with the possible exception of the Arizona Cardinals, who went to 9-1 with a methodical 14-6 victory over Detroit.
Outside of a home date against New England, the Packers schedule remains favorable. I see a possible No. 2 seed and an eventual trip to Arizona for the NFC Championship Game.
That game would result in the Packers either evicting the Cardinals out of their own locker room for the Super Bowl or Aaron Rodgers and several others returning the following week for the Pro Bowl.
And to think Wisconsin basketball’s quest to return to the Final Four also began this weekend, and even the Milwaukee Bucks sport a 5-5 record.
It will be mayhem in Dairyland for the next couple months.