PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) In an era where college football seemingly is dominated by high-scoring spread offenses, Wisconsin is doing it the old-fashioned way – with the running game and a dominant defense.
Melvin Gordon ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns, Corey Clement scampered for 131 yards and two more scores and Wisconsin limited Rutgers to a season-low 139 yards in a 37-0 victory Saturday that made the Badgers bowl eligible for the 13th consecutive season.
”We’re a well-structured team,” said Clement. ”We’re still coming along in the process. As the season goes on, things are going to get tougher so we are going to have to toughen up in some areas and just execute in some other areas that can win us some games.”
Gordon scored on runs of 15 and 51 yards in posting his sixth consecutive 100-yard game rushing, helping Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) win its third straight game.
Clement tallied on run 43 and 36 yards and Rafael Gaglianone kicked three field goals as the Badgers dominated to send the Scarlet Knights’ Homecoming crowd home early.
The shutout loss was the first for Rutgers (5-4, 1-4) since 2002 – a run of 147 games – and it stretched its losing streak to three games. It’s been a tough stretch that included blowout losses to No. 13 Ohio State and No. 17 Nebraska.
Even having senior Gary Nova (5 of 15 for 46 yards) start at quarterback despite hurting his right knee last weekend against Nebraska could not help the Scarlet Knights.
”I just left a really frustrated football team right now,” said Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, who team has been outscored 135-41 the past three weeks . ”When you have a game like you did today, when you have a three game stretch like we have, I think that’s probably a good thing. We’ve got to get better.”
Wisconsin entered with the nation’s No. 7 ranked scoring defense (16.1) and fourth best in total defense (270.1 yards), and it was outstanding. The Badgers held the Scarlet Knights to eight first downs and didn’t allow them to get inside its 26-yard line, with that coming on the final play of the game.
”I think that is the identity of our defense, we’re the underdogs,” Badgers linebacker Derek Landisch said. ”We’re kind of the guys who don’t get talked about. We love that and we play with a chip on our shoulder and I think that’s what makes us better when we play with that effort and attitude.”
The Wisconsin defense was a little upset last week after giving up a late touchdown in its 52-7 win over Maryland. This time they were smiling at the end of the game.
”You can’t win a game by yourself,” defensive end Warren Herring said. ”You have to have a good offense, and that’s what we have. We have one of the best offensive line groups in the country, a dual-quarterback system that is working, great running backs in Melvin and Corey and great receivers making plays downfield. It takes an offense and defense to win.”
That’s what Wisconsin has.
On a rainy, dreary day, Wisconsin took the lead for good with the help of a special teams play. A.J. Jordan blocked a punt by Tim Gleeson late in the first half and the ball rolled out of bounds at the Rutgers 20. Three plays later, Gordon, who came into the game as the nation’s No. 2 rusher with a 166.9 yard average, broke a tackle and danced into the end zone from 15 yards out.
Wisconsin didn’t make another play on offense until Clement blew through a hole in the middle of the Scarlet Knights line to score almost untouched on his 43-yard run for a 14-0 lead with 9:36 left in the half.
Gaglianone added field goals of 32 and 27 yards before the half – one set up by an interception by linebacker Marcus Trotter – and the Badgers built a 20-0 halftime lead.
The game was all but ended on the Badgers’ first play in the second half, when Gordon cut back right after a sweep left was stuffed and outran the Rutgers defense to the end zone for a 27-0 lead. The junior has 17 touchdowns rushing in his last six games. He left the game after seemingly tweaking a knee trying to catch a pass in the fourth quarter.
Coach Gary Andersen said Gordon was fine after the game.
Rutgers had 81 yards in the first half and ran only six plays in Wisconsin’s end of the field in the game.
Wisconsin finished with 385 yards in total offense, including 298 rushing.