Following Wisconsin’s heartbreaking collapse against LSU this past Saturday night, the greatest amount of anger from Badgers fans was directed at head coach Gary Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig over star running back Melvin Gordon’s lack of playing time in the second half.
Though some initially figured that Gordon must have been injured, the flames of this controversy were fanned when both Wisconsin players and coaches insisted after the game that Gordon wasn’t injured.
Gordon said in a postgame interview that he was fine, and though Andersen stated in his press conference that there had been an issue with Gordon at halftime, he dismissed the notion that he had suffered any significant injury and said that he “didn’t know” why Gordon had only four carries in the second half.
Even fellow running back Corey Clement claimed that Gordon was fine when asked after the game if an injury was the reason why his carries increased and Gordon’s decreased in the second half.
“Coaches’ choice, Melvin was perfectly fine,” Clement said. “I can’t really say anything about that. Melvin has his time and I have my time, and I just tried to make the most out of my opportunities.”
Considering the claims by players and coaches that Gordon was uninjured along with Andersen’s vague comments about an “issue” at halftime, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that fans immediately began speculating as to what happened that caused Gordon’s playing time to decrease. One of the most prominent conspiracy theories was that he had lobbied the coaches to replace quarterback Tanner McEvoy with Joel Stave, and had his carries reduced as a result.
However, no matter what your feelings are on Andersen and his coaching staff, it’s hard to believe that they would’ve held a Heisman contender out of the Badgers’ biggest game out of the season solely out of spite.
But after a couple days of speculation and frustration from fans, Andersen announced Monday the reasoning behind Gordon only getting four second-half carries was that he suffered a hip flexor during his last run before halftime.
Though Gordon said on Monday that he felt that he was feeling good enough to play, he conceded that the coaches were acting in his best interest and placed the blame on himself for not being more vocal about his desire to be put back into the game.
No one can blame the coaches for keeping Gordon out of the game if he was injured; running the risk of losing your best player for the rest of the year simply isn’t worth it, no matter the magnitude of the game.
However, that doesn’t excuse the lack of transparency and confusion for Andersen and the coaching staff immediately following the loss to LSU. The fact that Andersen flat out said Gordon was fine and that he didn’t know why he wan’t in the game more is troubling, as it led to unnecessary speculating and even more frustration from the fans.
Now that the truth about Gordon’s status is out, the Badgers can try to move on from both the controversy and the painful loss, but Andersen and Co. will have to do much better of handling a similar situation if one arises.