Badgers Tumultuous Week
There are crazy stretches, then there are weeks like Wisconsin just went through
On Friday December 5th, the Wisconsin Badgers football team stepped off the chartered flight in rainy Indianapolis in advance of the 2014 Big Ten Conference Championship Game as four point favorites over the red-hot Ohio State Buckeyes. With Heisman hopeful Melvin Gordon in tow, the Badgers were poised to upset the apple cart and keep the Buckeyes from making the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Considering everything seemingly going in their favor, the way the next five days unfolded, the world for Wisky fans must feel like they are on a roller coaster. Being blasted 59-0 by a 3rd string quarterback and a hungry team out to prove they belonged in the playoff set the wheels in motion for the most newsworthy week in Wisconsin football history.
The Badgers learned of their bowl fate Sunday when they were invited to Tampa to play in the Outback Bowl versus the Auburn Tigers. The trip to Florida marks the fifth consecutive January bowl game for Wisconsin, joining the Alabama Crimson Tide as the only other program in the country that can make that distinction.
After travel agents were dispatched to send the people from the land of cheese south for New Years Day, the focus around Madison became whether or not junior running back Melvin Gordon would get the call from The Heisman Trust as a finalist for the award earning him a trip to New York City.
The official invite was handed out Monday, as Gordon was one of three finalists for the most coveted award in college football, along with Alabama receiver Amari Cooper and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Gordon led the nation in rushing with 2336 yards as one of only two players in the country over 2000 yards (Indiana’s Tevin Coleman), and for seven days, held the NCAA Single Game Rushing Record which had previously stood for almost a generation. Gordon rushed for 408 yards against the Blackshirts of Nebraska on 25 carries in just three quarters of action.
The way that game was going, Gordon could have gone north of 500 to put the record well out of reach, but with a 35 point lead, there was no reason to keep him in the game. Of course, had all involved known that the next week Kansas would refuse to play defense against Samaje Perine of Oklahoma, they might have let Gordon set an unreachable record.
Then Wednesday brought a pair of bombshells.
Gordon appeared on the Dan Patrick Show where it was “unofficially” announced that he would enter the 2015 NFL Draft, which was not a shocker, but what came later on hump day caught a lot of people by surprise.
In a release put out by the University on Wednesday
Gary Andersen informed the Wisconsin football team at a team meeting at 4 p.m. on Wednesday that he was taking the head coaching job at Oregon State University. UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez has immediately started a national search for a new head football coach.
“I will find a head coach to uphold the great tradition at Wisconsin, someone who is committed to excellence both on and off the field,” said Alvarez, ”
I want to thank Gary for his two years here and commend him on the way his team performed on the field, in the classroom, and in the community. I wish him the best at Oregon State.”
Andersen went 19-7 after he took over in Madison when in 2012, leaving behind a Utah State program that had led back to back bowl appearances. The Salt Lake City native reportedly never really felt comfortable in Wisconsin, and a move back out west was in line.
“President (Ed) Ray and I are ecstatic that Gary is coming to Oregon State,” athletic director Bob De Carolis said in a statement. “He is one of the top coaches in the country and will have instant credibility with our players, boosters and fans.
“Gary is a winner. He is a man of integrity and substance. He has extensive West Coast ties and knows the landscape of the Pac-12 conferences, having coached at current conference member Utah.”
Alvarez is now tasked with hiring the guy who replaced the guy who replaced him. Much like when Bret Bielema left to take the Arkansas job in 2012, Alvarez has not ruled out coaching the team in the Outback Bowl while remaining focused on finding a new man to run the program going forward. Alvarez coached the Badgers in the 2013 Rose Bowl loss versus Stanford.
If Gordon could pull off the upset and win the Heisman over the highly favored Mariota, the Badgers could end the week on an uptick, but the coaching hire Alvarez now has to make will have the most impact on the Wisconsin program going forward.