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Sant-Miller: Gordon’s hot start merits attention (Sept. 19)

Aaron Sant Miller | Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unless you have decided to keep the television off for the last few days to focus on tests or made the executive decision not to watch ESPN so as to avoid more Johnny Manziel talk, you have seen the controversial end to Arizona State’s win over No. 24 Wisconsin (They were ranked No. 20 at the time of the game).

To make a long story short, Wisconsin had the ball, down two, at Arizona State’s 13-yard line with less than 20 seconds left in the game. In an effort to center the ball to make the impending game-winning field goal easier, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave took the snap, ran to the middle of the field and placed the ball on the ground. Stave, by doing so, effectively gave himself up and the officials ruled the play a dead ball. Yet, Arizona State did not get the memo and dove on the football, treating it like a fumble. With the clock still running and the officials trying to pull players off the ball, Wisconsin’s lackadaisical attitude got the best of them and time expired, leaving them down two and giving Arizona State a win over an Top 25 opponent.

If you haven’t seen the clip of this yet, I’m sure you will. It will go down as one of the strangest plays in this college football season and maybe even this calendar year.

Frankly, I’m rather perturbed the game ended in this manner. No, not because I have any attachment whatsoever to Wisconsin or any animosity toward Arizona State. In fact, if anything, it helps Notre Dame’s strength of schedule that Arizona State pulled out the miraculous win.

No, this controversial play bothers me simply because it steals the spotlight from a player who has been the most exciting ball carrier in college football through the first three games. In just three weeks, the Badgers sophomore running back Melvin Gordon has accumulated 477 rushing yards on only 37 carries. Nope, that’s not a typo.

In the first two weeks, Wisconsin ran all over both UMass and Tennessee Tech, beating them a combined 93-0 (can you say mercy rule?). Sure, neither UMass nor Tennessee Tech will be recognized as a top team any time soon, but Gordon was still able to gain 284 yards on only 22 carries. Those are gaudy numbers, no matter who you’re playing.

Yet, against a much sturdier Arizona State defensive front, Gordon put on his best show, racking up 193 yards on only 15 carries, scoring two touchdowns. The sophomore back had four runs of at least 30 yards, making big plays left and right.

Overshadowed by current Denver Broncos back Montee Ball last year, Gordon had a solid 2012 campaign as well, cruising to 621 yards on only 62 carries. For all you math majors out there, yes, that’s 10 yards a carry.

Ten yards a carry? That’s scrub work for Gordon in 2013. In all three games, he has averaged over 11 yards a carry, with a season average of 12.9. Fast fact: no other player in the top-30 for rushing yards through three games has a higher yard per carry average.

This kid is insane. Right now, in my book, Gordon is right up there with Manziel as one of the most exciting players in college football. If he keeps up this pace throughout the year, Gordon will rush for 1,908 yards… on only 148 carries.

For Gordon, sure, some tougher matchups loom ahead. This weekend, Wisconsin hosts a Purdue defense that stymied the Irish running game last week. After Purdue, the Badgers travel to No. 4 Ohio State before hosting No. 18 Northwestern. Still, if Gordon can keep putting up numbers like this for the next three weeks, prepare to hear Heisman chants from Camp Randall Stadium.

Naysayers will go on with the “he-hasn’t-played-any-real-teams-yet” speech. Whoops, I forgot to mention, before facing Wisconsin, Arizona State was only giving up 51 rushing yards a game. Gordon nearly quadrupled that himself.

Dear haters, just give it time. Three weeks from now, he will have run against some indisputably good rushing defenses. If he disappears, well I’ll look like a clown, but that’s not going to happen.

I mean, I guess it makes running the ball easier when the average offensive lineman in front of you is over 6-foot-6 and 321 pounds. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt to have legitimate 4.5 speed and a 40-inch vertical. That’s not explosive or anything.

Next time Stave decides to lose track of time, drop the football and effectively throw the game, stop jabbering and look at the box score. Then, prepare to tip your hat to the most explosive and exciting back in college football.

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at asantmil@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.