Varsity is the free Official Online Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics, covering Badgers football, basketball, hockey and more each week.
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A LUCAS AT LARGE BY MIKE LUCAS // UWBADGERS.COM Gordon working to come back even better 12 s fast as he is, Melvin Gordon was having trouble catching his breath. Seriously, the Wisconsin tailback who has broken open games with his speed and home run ability, was gasping for air after Tuesday's practice, which was not necessarily a bad thing. A little resistance band training never hurt. With teammates on both ends of the band, Gordon was challenged to push forward and extend himself physically while maintaining a tight grip on the football. Trying to describe what he was experiencing, he said, "You're fighting your hardest and you can't go anywhere because (the band) is holding you back; it's almost like pulling a sled." The bottom line, he said, is making sure everybody is pulling their weight, so to speak, when the Badgers return to action Saturday afternoon against Northwestern at Camp Randall Stadium. "Oh, definitely," said Gordon when asked if he was hungry after sitting out the fourth quarter of the Ohio State loss with a minor injury. "We have to come out fighting to redeem ourselves." Gordon showed up on the national radar prior to playing the Buckeyes. He was leading the nation in rushing (156.0 yards per game). He has since dropped to No. 8 (139.6), and he can live with that. "I wasn't on anybody's radar from the start of the season, so it's nothing new to me," he said. "I'm used to not having it (the media focus), and it's probably better if it // VARSITY October 10, 2013 stays that way. "It's not like I'm (Georgia tailback) Todd Gurley who came in with all the hype." Gurley has been dogged by injuries. Gordon, at that, suffered a scare at Ohio State when he was tackled after a five-yard gain on the final play of the third quarter and had to be assisted off the field. "I'm good," he reported Tuesday. "Doing this extra stuff after practice is helping." Taking advantage of last Saturday's open date in the schedule, Gordon conceded "I was a little off with my footwork and timing" early-on, but "by the time game day comes around I'll be fine." You can attach a footnote to footwork. Reflecting on "what could have been" against the Buckeyes, he said, "Four or five times I was close and I just got tripped up by my foot." By close, he meant close to busting a long run, close to hitting a home run, really close. "You have to take advantage of the opportunities that you get because with good teams you're not going to get too many," said Gordon, who had 15 rushes for 74 yards. His longest run was 16. "When you get a crease and miss it, who knows? That crease in the first quarter might not come again until the third quarter; so you have to make the best of those creases when you get them." Ohio State has one of the best tackling defensive backfields in the nation; or had one until Christian Bryant was lost for the season with a broken ankle. Still, they made it tough on Gordon. "They were going low and it was kind of mind-boggling just because I didn't think they would," said Gordon, citing how defenses tend to attack him differently from week to week. "I just have to realize that, since they had some success with it, teams will try to cut me down. I've been practicing hard for it, so I'll be ready in case somebody else tries the same thing." Good luck uncovering a trend with Northwestern. The Badgers and the Wildcats have played just twice since 2006 when P.J. Hill rushed for 249 yards in Wisconsin's 41-9 win at Camp Randall. In 2009, Northwestern held serve at home by holding the Badgers to just 99 net rushing yards in a 33-31 victory. In 2010, Wisconsin ran over the 'Cats, 70-23, in Madison. It was not a coincidence that UW running backs coach Thomas Hammock brought out the resistance bands this week. Northwestern has forced eight fumbles in five games and recovered three of them. High and tight has been the order of the day. "You have to hold the ball real tight with guys trying to pull and tug at it," Gordon said. "It's muscle memory training." As far as that goes, he has already committed a few things to memory since the Ohio State game. "Yes, sir, I was close to a couple of those (home runs)," said Gordon, anxious for his next at-bat.