You probably know by now that I love power football. "Three yards and a cloud of dust" football. "A seal here and a seal here and you run the ball up the middle" football. I-formation with a fullback and two tight ends football. Sixteen play, 80-yard drives that take eight-and-a-half minutes off the clock football. The style of play that distills the game to its very essence: one man carrying the ball--and 11-guys trying to tackle him--just like you did when you were a kid in the backyard. And that is why I am still giddy over the performance of Badgers' running back Melvin Gordon on Saturday.
First off, I have to thank the WIAA for scheduling the Wrightstown-Somerset playoff game that I called on our sister station for Friday night. I would have been apoplectic if I had missed being at the Badgers game Saturday and Melvin had put on that same performance. I missed the Ron Dayne all-time NCAA career rushing record game against Iowa back in 1999 because I was doing play-by-play for a high school game--and I'm still steamed about it. And then, Montee Ball set the career rushing touchdown mark in Penn State, so I wasn't at that game either.
I also have to thank the Wisconsin Athletics Department Media folks for not kicking me out of the press box on Saturday, because I was definitely violating the "no cheering" rule. I wanted Melvin to break Ron Dayne's single game school record while I was watching. And once he had done that--and we found out he needed just another 70-yards or so to break the Football Bowl Subdivision record held by LaDanian Tomlinson--I wanted to see him break that as well. I think I may have cheered an incomplete pass right before the record-breaking TD run--because I knew that Melvin needed all 26-yards the Badgers had to the Nebraska end zone to reach the mark. And once he had that record, I wanted him to break the all-divisions mark of 468-yards rushing in a game. But Gary Andersen decided one-record was enough and took MGIII out of the game will still another quarter to play.
Perhaps the biggest "thanks" should go to the Badgers' offensive line, who so thoroughly man-handled the Nebraska defense that on most of his runs, Melvin wasn't even touched by anyone until he was ten yards downfield. It's probably why the offensive linemen celebrated after the game by doing "snow angels" on the field.
Oh yeah, the weather was perfect as well. It was like a scene out of all those classic NFL Films--with the players' breaths visible and the snowflakes floating around--creating a frosted look on the field. It was almost like the Football Gods decided they were going to give me everything that I like about football in one neat little package.
And that's what it was--a thing of beauty. No 5-wides, empty backfield sets. No hurry-up to run 85-plays a game. No read-options keying on the defensive end. Just our big guys versus your big guys--and a man running with the ball, while 11-others try to tackle him. And on this day, the man with the ball made all those other guys miss better than anyone else in the history of the game. Just the way football was meant to be played.