Wisconsin's Gordon rebounds from mistakes

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By Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Friday, September 6, 2013

MADISON--Melvin Gordon’s physical gifts are easy to identify.

The redshirt sophomore carries 207 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame and you’ll find little, if any, excess baggage. He glides more than he runs, and his speed was on display during his 70-yard touchdown run in Wisconsin’s victory over UMass last week.

Gordon saw a hole on the right side after taking the handoff at the UW 25, got to the line of scrimmage quickly and needed only 8.5 seconds to reach the end zone.

Thomas Hammock, in his third season as UW’s running backs coach, is privy to more than fans see, though.

“He has always been a kid that wants to study football, wants to perfect his craft, so to speak,” Hammock said. “He has always been into the details.

“Even his freshman year I can remember him going home and watching tape.

“But now he has got the maturity factor to say: ‘OK, this is what I did wrong. This is what I can do to correct my mistakes.’”

Consider Gordon’s response to a question two days after UW rushed 44 times for 393 yards and four touchdowns in the 45-0 victory over UMass.

Asked to highlight any areas in which the running game could improve, Gordon immediately offered a detailed account of how he failed to execute two plays during UW’s third offensive series of the game, a series which ended with a field goal rather than a touchdown.

Both were stretch plays, the first to the right and the second to the left.

“You look to puncture, you see a hole and you press it,” said the former Kenosha Bradford star. “At the beginning of the game I wasn’t as decisive as I should have been. I missed the hole sometimes.

“And I really need to get better on those. Sometimes you need to read the tight end’s block, and I kind of took my eyes off him and was looking for a hole to open up.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to keep pressing.”

Gordon gained 7 yards on the first play, on first-and-10 from the UMass 22.

However, had he been more patient and followed the blocks of tight ends Brian Wozniak and Jacob Pedersen to the outside he might have scored. Instead, he cut inside Wozniak’s block and the defender slipped off and made the tackle.

“I was waiting for a hole to open up on the inside and I took my eyes off the tight end and I could have stretched it out,” Gordon said. “Sometimes you get too antsy. Just little things I’ve got to work on, that we’ve all got to work on.”

Three plays later, Gordon ran a stretch play to the left side on first-and-goal from the 5.

This time he waited too long to attack the line of scrimmage and gained only 2 yards.

Hammock pulled Gordon from the game, put starter James White back into the game and had a frank discussion with Gordon on the UW sideline.

“He just wasn’t decisive,” Hammock said. “He saw the safety coming down and squeezing through the hole.

“And the great ones anticipate 2 to 3 yards in advance. So if that guy is coming down I am going to cut and get up the field.”

Gordon acknowledged his previous run was on his mind.

“I knew I had missed the hole to the outside on the last one,” he said, “and I thought about it.”

Gordon finished the opener with 144 yards and a touchdown in 13 carries, an average of 11.1 yards per carry. In 18 games at UW, Gordon has 863 yards on 95 carries, an average of 9.1 yards per carry.

The physical talent is obvious. What is encouraging to Hammock, however, is the work off the field and in the days leading to the game.

“It is a process and he is going through it,” Hammock said. “But it is fun because he will shoot me texts and messages about plays. You can have that healthy dialogue with a kid who wants to be good.”

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