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Melvin Gordon's role limited late in Wisconsin's loss to LSU

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Wisconsin running Melvin Gordon had only four carries in the second half on Saturday night.

Wisconsin tailback Melvin Gordon showed off his speed and explosiveness Saturday night against LSU. Well, he showed them off to an extent, anyway.

Gordon rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in the Badgers' 28-24 loss to LSU; LSU scored the final 21 points to come away with the win. But Gordon had just four carries in the second half, though those four carries did go for 64 yards.

His first carry of the second half came on the first play of the half, and it went for 63 yards and set up the TD that gave the Badgers a 24-7 lead. But he appeared to tweak his hamstring on the run, and didn't see much time after that.

Afterward, coach Gary Andersen told reporters that Gordon was fine and that he didn't know why his star back had so few carries in the half. If Gordon indeed was healthy, his lack of carries might have been something Andersen should have inquired about during the game with coordinator Andy Ludwig.

Wisconsin ran just 19 plays after taking the 17-point lead. Interestingly, 10 of them were passes, a curious play-calling ratio considering that quarterback Tanner McEvoy was, to be kind, inept as a passer in his first start for the Badgers. He finished 8-of-24 for 50 yards and two interceptions; the Badgers rushed for 268 yards.

Gordon was his usual self in the first half and on the early third-quarter run; few backs nationally have his kind of explosion, and he showed off his speed and decisiveness early on.

An issue with Gordon with pro scouts is a perceived lack of durability, his receiving ability and his pass-blocking. He did show off his pass-blocking skills in the fourth quarter, when he knocked blitzing safety Jamal Adams on his backside. But he didn't catch a pass, and while Wisconsin is known for sharing the wealth with its tailbacks, he has had just two games with at least 20 carries in his career, and Saturday night was the 11th time in the past 14 games that Gordon has had 17 or fewer carries.

The loss also spotlighted Wisconsin's issues in its defensive front seven; the Badgers returned no starter along the line or at linebacker, and lost two starting linemen during the game. Depth was a question, and the lack of it proved troublesome as LSU controlled the fourth quarter with its ground game.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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