He was the subject of a glowing ESPN profile, a potential Heisman contender at a running back position that hasn’t received the award in years and a main component of Wisconsin’s Big Ten hopes this season.
But when he was needed most in the second half of a slugfest with highly-ranked LSU, the Badgers’ best player had his butt firmly planted on the bench.
Melvin Gordon was noticeably – and mysteriously – absent in the later portion of Wisconsin’s 28-24 lost to LSU, supplanted by backup runner Corey Clement on many of the team’s key drives down the stretch.
After the game, Wisconsin coach Gary Anderson left the fans and media’s most pressing question unresolved.
“There was a little bit of a scenario with Melvin being completely ready to go at halftime,” Anderson told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “But he came out and hit the long run and he seemed OK.”
Well that wasn’t helpful. Thanks for nothing, coach.
It wasn’t like Gordon was struggling on the field.
In fact, he thrived as he rushed 12 times for 76 yards in a first half that saw the Badgers leading the Tigers by a substantial margin.
Then when he carried the ball on Wisconsin’s first offensive play in the second half, Gordon rocketed forward with a 63-yard run.
Somehow, after all of that, the running back only carried the ball three more times for the night, finishing with 140 yards on 16 carries.
Anderson’s answer as to why Gordon was left on the bench for so long was unsatisfying.
“I don’t know that,” he said, as if a coach has no say on how much his top offensive weapon steps onto the field.
So Gordon was or wasn’t injured?
“I was good. Little sore,” said Gordon, according to CBS Sports. “But I’m A-Okay, man.”
This isn’t the first time Gordon has suddenly disappeared from Anderson’s game plan, though this time it seems to come under different circumstances.
Last season against Minnesota, Gordon fumbled out of bounds on his first carry of the game, according to the Journal-Sentinel, and he was held out for several series after that.
On that occasion, Gordon made it clear that he was not happy.
The running back had a different post-game response this time, fueling more speculation that he may have asked to be held out due to some undisclosed nagging injury.
“I was good,” Gordon said. “I was all good.”
And so the mystery continues for another week, but if Gordon pulls another Houdini, expect Badger fans and the media to press a little harder on one of college football’s more curious decisions.