O-line paves road for Gordon at No. 14 Wisconsin

BY foxsports • November 19, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) Instead of relaxing in a hot tub a couple days after setting a rushing record, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon was doing another round of interviews.

Getting out of the routine was understandable after a 408-yard day on the ground against Nebraska vaulted Gordon near the top of the Heisman Trophy race.

But Gordon knows he could be feeling a lot worse this week. The offensive line for the 14th-ranked Badgers has been up opening lots of room lately for the star running back.

''They've been playing (well) and they never get the attention, everyone knows that - that's on this level, the next level,'' Gordon said. ''The offensive linemen never get the attention they're supposed to get.''

That's saying a lot, even at Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten), which has as much of a history producing road-paving offensive linemen as it does record-setting running backs. A tough road game Saturday at Iowa is the next stop on Gordon's Heisman campaign.

For as wide as the holes might be at the line of scrimmage, it's hard to overlook what Gordon has done once he's gotten into the open field.

Standing 6-foot-1 and a sturdy 213 pounds, Gordon is virtually unstoppable when he's matched up one-on-one on a defender. Check the highlight reel from last week's game against Nebraska.

Gordon set a major college standard for most yards rushing in a game. And he didn't even play in the fourth quarter.

''Well, it feels good, but we're not going to sit there and pound our chest about it. We're not going to say, `That was us,''' right tackle Rob Havenstein said. ''If you watch the film and see what Melvin does, all we do when we do our job correctly ... we'll get him 7 yards.''

That's quite the astounding figure in and of itself, to overpower front sevens enough to the point where a line can confidently say it helped the tailback gain 7 yards on a carry.

''We got him to the unblocked lineman or unblocked defender, which is 7 yards. The next 38 are on Melvin,'' Havenstein said. ''Those numbers that Melvin puts up are definitely because of Melvin.''

But the talk was much different in Week 2.

As improbable as it now sounds, Gordon gained just 38 yards on 17 carries against Western Illinois on Sept. 6. Making matters more mystifying was that Western Illinois is a lower-division school. Its defense stacked the box to stuff Gordon.

The next week, Gordon ran for 253 yards and five touchdowns on just 13 carries against Bowling Green. He has rushed for at least 122 yards in each game since.

''Just those guys have been attacking. I don't know what happened in (the Western Illinois) game,'' Gordon said. ''The whole offense, we probably just weren't clicking or something, but since then those guys have really got it together and really focused and they've been working hard ... They make it easy on me.''

The offense, admittedly, has been a work in progress. Early on, the Badgers were still going with Tanner McEvoy as their full-time starting quarterback.

Joel Stave has reclaimed the job, but Wisconsin has settled comfortably into a platoon at the position with McEvoy entering as a change-of-pace running threat.

Havenstein said the front five from week to week has focused on fundamentals and technique, ''however much of that is a boring answer, it's kind of the truth.''

They have improved each week, must like the rest of the team, including the defense and special teams.

''They come to work every single day and probably what most of us would envision in our minds is a Wisconsin offensive lineman being a tough, rugged kid,'' coach Gary Andersen said. ''Also their care factor, not to just run the ball well but to play well and be part of the Wisconsin offensive line tradition means an awful lot to those kids.''

Their biggest reward might be an honor they would never personally receive - if Gordon were to win the Heisman.


Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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