Wisconsin's running game poses big challenge for Gophers

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 22, 2013 - 12:47 AM

It has been almost impossible to slow Wisconsin’s explosive running tandem of Melvin Gordon and James White.

 

The Gophers football team knows what’s coming Saturday. Now all it has to do is figure a way to stop it.

In Melvin Gordon and James White, Wisconsin features two lightning-quick running backs who operate behind the booming thunder of another mammoth Badgers offensive line.

“I don’t think there’s anything more demeaning than when somebody takes the ball and runs it down your throat, and you can’t stop it,” Gophers coach Jerry Kill said.

He thought back to last year, when the Gophers trailed Wisconsin just 14-6 midway through the third quarter.

“And then they just wore us down,” Kill said of the eventual 38-14 loss.

Few teams have slowed Gordon and White this year, and run defense is one area where the Gophers have struggled, even during their four-game winning streak. So Saturday’s showdown at TCF Bank Stadium looms as a major challenge.

Gordon has a career average of 8.51 yards per carry. It’s one thing to do that for a short spurt, but the redshirt sophomore has done it over 238 rushing attempts.

And Gordon hasn’t even been Wisconsin’s leading rusher the past three games. That’s been White, a senior who leads active FBS players in career touchdowns (47) and ranks second in career rushing yardage (3,727).

The Badgers are the only FBS team with two rushers with more than 1,000 yards; as Gordon has 1,306, White 1,156.

Asked if the Badgers have the best rushing tandem in the country, Gophers cornerback Brock Vereen said: “Absolutely, it’s a 1-2 punch. Really it’s a 1-1 punch. Either of them could start just about anywhere.”

And the Badgers have a pretty good No. 3 rusher in freshman Corey Clement, who has rushed for 528 yards — 7.8 per carry — in mop-up duty.

Last week against Indiana, White (205), Gordon (146) and Clement (108) all went over the century mark.

“It’s going to be easy for us to prepare for them because all they do is run the ball,” Gophers defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman said. “They’ve got great running backs and a great O-line, so it’s really just a man’s game, and you have to be ready for it.”

The natural temptation for any defensive coordinator against Wisconsin is to stack the box, or bring defensive backs into the linebacker area to create less space for the Badgers to run.

But that leaves teams vulnerable to the play-action pass. Quarterback Joel Stave can fake the handoff, and look for Jared Abbrederis, the Big Ten’s fourth-leading receiver. Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby, who plans to enter next year’s NFL draft, was assigned to Abbrederis on Sept. 28, and Abbrederis caught 10 passes for 207 yards.

“He’s awfully good one-on-one,” Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said. “You watch the film, and he makes plays against everybody. So it’s one of those things that you try to give help [keeping Abbrederis double-covered], but if you’re doing that, and they’re getting 7 yards a carry, they’re not interested in throwing it to him either.”

After the Gophers’ 24-10 victory over Penn State on Nov. 9, Claeys said run defense would be a focal point over the bye week.

  • Gophers vs. (16) wisconsin

    2:30 p.m. Saturday TCF Bank Stadium TV: ESPN (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

    Line: Badgers by 16½

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 3 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Miami 7 FINAL
Washington 11
Detroit 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Minnesota 6 FINAL
Baltimore 5
NY Yankees 7 FINAL
Houston 0
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Boston 3
Baltimore 4 FINAL
Toronto 2
Cincinnati 8 FINAL
LA Angels 6
Chicago Cubs 7 FINAL
Kansas City 0
Los Angeles 9 FINAL
San Francisco 11
Chicago WSox 4 FINAL
Cleveland 1
Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Oakland 7
Seattle 5 FINAL
San Diego 8
Texas 5 FINAL
Los Angeles 10
Colorado 11 FINAL
Arizona 10
Arizona 1 FINAL
Colorado 2
Houston 99 FINAL
Washington 91
LA Lakers 99 FINAL
Brooklyn 107
Minnesota 88 FINAL
New Orleans 110
Philadelphia 86 FINAL
Cleveland 87
Detroit 102 FINAL
Miami 109
LA Clippers 119 FINAL
Boston 106
Dallas 99 FINAL
Indiana 104
Memphis 89 FINAL
San Antonio 103
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Phoenix 97
Washington 5 FINAL
NY Rangers 2
Calgary 5 FINAL
Nashville 2
Boston 2 FINAL(OT)
Carolina 1
Detroit 4 FINAL
NY Islanders 5
Florida 4 FINAL
Ottawa 2
Anaheim 2 FINAL
New Jersey 1
Chicago 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
San Jose 2 FINAL(SO)
Pittsburgh 3
Michigan State 76 FINAL
Louisville 70
Gonzaga 52 FINAL
Duke 66
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Toronto FC 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
(7) Florida State 74 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 80
Villanova 70 FINAL
West Virginia 75
Michigan 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 60
Temple 69 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 57
Siena 50 FINAL
Louisiana 52
St Marys-CA 66 FINAL
UCLA 82
(5) Baylor 68 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 77
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite team in the NCAA men's hockey tournament?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close