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No. 11 Nebraska routed 59-24 by No. 22 Wisconsin, allows rush-record 408 yards to Gordon

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MADISON, Wisconsin — Nebraska tried its best to emulate Melvin Gordon's speed in practice.

But no Cornhusker can run quite like the man himself, and Nebraska found that out the hard way on Saturday.

Gordon rushed for a major college-record 408 yards and four touchdowns, and No. 22 Wisconsin scored 56 unanswered points in a 59-24 rout of the 11th-ranked Cornhuskers.

"Just the speed of Melvin Gordon is impossible to simulate. That would be anybody on our team," defensive coordinator John Papuchis said.

Coach Bo Pelini summarized the night succinctly after Nebraska blew an early 17-3 lead.

"Somewhere along the way our guys totally lost their confidence. Our tackling was atrocious. We had some missed assignments," he said.

That might be an understatement.

Gordon eclipsed the single-game mark held since 1999 by TCU's LaDainian Tomlinson by two yards, setting the new standard on a 26-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter and his last carry of the game.

"Yeah, I didn't even know I was close to the record," Gordon said. "I was kind of just running away."

Outdueling Ameer Abdullah in a matchup of star running backs, Gordon had two fumbles before helping the Badgers (8-2, 5-1, CFP No. 20) roar past the Cornhuskers (8-2, 4-2, CFP No. 16). The star junior torched what had been a staunch Nebraska defense on 25 carries and delivered an emphatic statement in the Heisman Trophy race.

The win, coupled with Minnesota's 31-24 loss earlier Saturday to Ohio State, gave the Badgers' sole possession of first place in the West.

The game had been billed in part as a footrace between Gordon and Abdullah for Heisman votes. It ended up being Gordon by a landslide.

Abdullah finished with 69 yards on 18 attempts, and lost a fumble in the third quarter. Pelini said Abdullah, who was returning from a left knee injury, wasn't 100 percent but played well.

PHOTO: Wisconsin's Devin Gaulden, right, breaks up a pass intended for Nebraska's Brandon Reilly during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Wisconsin's Devin Gaulden, right, breaks up a pass intended for Nebraska's Brandon Reilly during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

"There's a reason why people talk about him so much, because he is good at what he does," Wisconsin linebacker Marcus Trotter said about Abdullah. "But we knew that if we just stayed in our gaps and did the scheme that (defensive coordinator Dave Aranda) told us to do, we would be fine against him."

The Cornhuskers could only wish they were that successful against Gordon. The junior's most entertaining carry might have been the 62-yarder down the sideline, completed after hurdling over lunging safety Corey Cooper around the 35 to get into the clear.

Gordon never played a down in the fourth quarter with his team leading by five scores. About the most action he got was when he danced on the field in the snow with his teammates while the song "Jump Around" echoed through the stadium, a Wisconsin tradition before the fourth quarter.

The single-game rushing record had stood since Nov. 20, 1999, when Tomlinson had 406 for TCU against UTEP.

Gordon thanked his coaches for sticking with him after his two fumbles.

"It's a luxury that I've never had before as a coach," said Wisconsin's Gary Andersen. "To see a performance like that was amazing."

It was hard to believe that Nebraska actually led 17-3 with 14:12 left in the second quarter on quarterback Tommy Armstrong's 5-yard touchdown run. The Cornhuskers' early scores came on short fields because of Wisconsin turnovers.

Nebraska fell apart from there. Gordon powered the offense, while the Wisconsin defense applied non-stop pressure.

Wisconsin finally surged ahead 24-17 on Saturday night on Joel Stave's 5-yard touchdown pass to Sam Arneson with 3:31 left the second quarter.

The rushing attack then left the Cornhuskers in the dust. It was 52-17 by the start of the fourth, with backups littering both lineups the rest of the way.

Armstrong finished with 17 yards on 20 carries, but was just 6-of-18 passing for 62 yards with an interception. He connected with Kenny Bell for a 12-yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter.

But what had been a promising start for Nebraska turned into an embarrassing loss in the snow.

"Melvin Gordon is a helluva back," Pelini said. "But we played a big part in that, too."


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