MADISON, Wis. — Unaware he was close to setting a record, Melvin Gordon took the handoff and did what he does best.
Wisconsin’s star running back burst through the hole, made a cut and high-stepped into the end zone, capping a memorable evening with an NCAA milestone.
Gordon rushed for a major college-record 408 yards and four touchdowns and the 22nd-ranked Badgers overcame three early turnovers to take control of the Big Ten West division with a 59-24 win Saturday over No. 11 Nebraska.
Gordon eclipsed the single-game mark held since 1999 by TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson by two yards, setting the new standard on a 26-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter and his last carry of the game.
“Yeah, I didn’t even know I was close to a record like that,” Gordon said. “I was just kind of running away.”
Outdueling Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah in a matchup of top tailbacks, Gordon had two fumbles before he helped the Badgers (8-2, 5-1, CFP No. 20) roar past Nebraska (8-2, 4-2, CFP No. 16) with 56 straight points.
The star junior torched what had been a staunch Nebraska defense on 25 carries and delivered an emphatic statement in the Heisman Trophy race.
“How about this guy? He’s the best of the best,” coach Gary Andersen said.
Abdullah finished with 69 yards on 18 attempts in a game billed in part as a footrace between Gordon and Abdullah for Heisman votes.
It ended up being Gordon by a landslide.
“That kid (Melvin Gordon) bad!! Congrats on breaking the NCAA single game rushing record,” Tomlinson posted on Twitter. The single-game rushing record had stood since Nov. 20, 1999, when Tomlinson had 406 for TCU against UTEP.
Gordon’s most entertaining carry might have been the 62-yarder down the sideline, completed after hurdling over lunging safety Corey Cooper around the 35 to get into the clear.
“Just the speed of Melvin Gordon is impossible to simulate,” Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis said.
Gordon never played a down in the fourth quarter with his team leading by five scores. About the most action he got was when he danced on the field in the snow with his teammates while the song “Jump Around” echoed through the stadium, a Wisconsin tradition before the fourth quarter.
“Melvin Gordon! Melvin Gordon!” the crowd roared in the second half.
Among other marks set Saturday by Gordon:
—The 189 yards in the second quarter broke the school record for most in a quarter.
—His 1,909 yards on the season now ranks as fourth-best in school history, with two regular-season games left.
—It was Gordon’s fourth 200-yard rushing game this season, joining Ron Dayne as the only Badgers to run for at least 200 in a game four times in a season.
It was hard to believe that Nebraska actually led 17-3 with 14:12 left in the second quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Tommy Armstrong Jr. The Cornhuskers’ early scores came on short fields because of Wisconsin turnovers.
Nebraska fell apart from there. Gordon powered the offense, while the Wisconsin defense applied non-stop pressure.
“We started off well. We were doing a lot of good things in all three phases of the game and then it flipped. Somewhere along the way our guys totally lost their confidence,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said.
“Our tackling was atrocious. We had some missed assignments,” he added.
The win, coupled with Minnesota’s 31-24 loss earlier Saturday to Ohio State, gave the Badgers’ sole possession of first place in the West.
Wisconsin finally surged ahead 24-17 on Saturday night on Joel Stave’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Sam Arneson with 3:31 left the second quarter.
The rushing attack then left the Cornhuskers in the dust. Gordon scored three times in the third quarter, while dual-threat quarterback Tanner McEvoy, who alternated with Stave, added an 11-yard touchdown run.
It was 52-17 by the start of the fourth, with backups littering both lineups the rest of the way.
Armstrong finished with 17 yards on 20 carries, but was just 6-of-18 passing for 62 yards with an interception. He connected with Kenny Bell for a 12-yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter.
But what had been a promising start for Nebraska turned into an embarrassing loss in the snow. Wisconsin had four sacks, and Marcus Trotter led the defense with 12 tackles.
But Gordon stole the show.