Best of Outback Bowl: What a bounceback win for Badgers!

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Best of Outback Bowl: What a bounceback win for Badgers!

This was a great bounce-back win for Wisconsin, which fell 59-0 to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game and had to recover from the shock of Gary Andersen’s surprising decision to take the Oregon State job.

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No worries, former coach and current A.D Barry Alvarez came back down to the sideline to coach the Badgers, and Melvin Gordon was Melvin Gordon en route to leading Wisconsin to an exciting 34-31 overtime win vs. Auburn.

It was the Badgers’ 11th win of the season and will give the program needed momentum heading to the offseason under a new coaching staff.

BEST OF OUTBACK BOWL

Best play: Trailing 17-14 late in the third quarter and facing a 4th-and-1, Wisconsin opted to go for it. Melvin Gordon zoomed up the middle and not only picked up the first down but jetted 53 yards for a TD to put the Badgers up 21-17 with 20 seconds left in the quarter.

Best player: RB Melvin Gordon. He was sensational again, running 34 times for 251 yards (7.4 ypc) and three TDs. Gordon finishes with 2,587 yards rushing and 29 TDs, as he has opted to turn pro. It is the second-most rushing yards in a season in FBS history. It was the sixth time this season that Gordon ran for over 200 yards.

Best moment: Seeing a jubilant Barry Alvarez. He stepped down from his A.D. office to coach and led the team to victory. He did this after the 2012 season and lost in the Rose Bowl. The ol’ coach still has it.

Best stat: 400, yards rushing for Wisconsin, which was an Outback Bowl record. Gordon had 251 and Corey Clement had 105.

GRADES

Offense: A. With the passing game struggling, the Badgers leaned on their running game to produce an Outback Bowl record 400 yards on the ground. The team finished with 521 yards and overcame three interceptions by Joel Stave—all in AU territory. It was the third time this season and fourth overall that Stave had three picks. He hit 14-of-27 passes for 121 yards with a TD go along with his picks.

Defense: C. The defense was gashed often by a balanced Auburn offense that produced 435 yards, getting 219 on the ground and 216 through the air. The defense also failed to produce any turnovers. AU RB Cameron Artis-Payne ran 26 times for 126 yards and two scores. Tiger QB Nick Marshall hit 15-of-22 passes for 217 yards and two TDs.

Special teams: C. Badgers K Rafael Gaglianone booted a 29-yard field goal with seven seconds left to send the game into overtime. He then booted a 25-yarder in the first overtime that proved to be the difference. The return game produced nothing of note. Punter Drew Meyer was awful.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It was over when: Auburn lined up to attempt a 45-yard field goal to send the game into a second overtime. But Tigers K Daniel Carlson saw his boot go off the right upright and miss. He had missed from 44 yards earlier in the game.

A look toward 2015: For the second time in three years, Wisconsin is in transition. Gary Andersen is off to coach Oregon State; former Badger player and coach Paul Chryst was hired from Pitt. The transition should be smooth. In fact, Wisconsin could be the favorite to repeat in the West Division, even with Melvin Gordon off early to the NFL. There will be plenty of talent back on both sides of the ball. But will the QB play improve with Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy back?

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