The mystery as to why Wisconsin star tailback Melvin Gordon had just four second-half carries in the Badgers' loss to LSU has been explained: He was injured.
Gordon told reporters Monday that he suffered a minor hip injury on his final first-half carry and that his decreased workload in the second half was the result of coaches looking out for what was best for him.
Gordon rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in the Badgers' 28-24 loss. Gordon's four carries in the second half went 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.
Gordon also said, "I'm healthy and I'm ready to roll for Saturday." The Badgers play host to FCS foe Western Illinois this Saturday.
Coach Gary Andersen said Monday that Gordon's injury was a minor hip flexor and that coaches "were trying to be smart with him as the rest of the game went on." Saturday night, Andersen told reporters Gordon was fine and that he didn't know why his star back had so few carries in the second half.
If coaches have any trepidation about Gordon's health, there's no reason to play him this week. The Badgers should be able to roll past the Leathernecks even without Gordon. Even better, keeping him on the sideline this week would mean he would have two weeks off, as the Badgers are off Sept. 13 and play Bowling Green on Sept. 20.
Gordon's sense of humor remains intact. He was asked if the reason he was caught from behind on his 63-yard run was because of the hip injury; he laughed and said, "Yeah, I'm going to use that."
His lack of work was all the more glaring because after Wisconsin took the 17-point lead, the Badgers ran just 19 more plays the rest of the game and 10 of them were passes. Wisconsin finished with 268 rushing yards, and Badgers quarterback Tanner McEvoy was just 8-of-24 for 50 yards and two interceptions.
"Tanner is better than what the stats showed Saturday, but I have the utmost confidence that he can make plays to help us win," Gordon said Monday.
Andersen said McEvoy remains the starter ahead of Joel Stave, who was the starter last season and threw 22 TD passes. But he also tossed 13 interceptions.