MADISON, Wis. — That whole Beast Mode rage was by design, a thing of beauty and spite. But mostly spite.
If you thought Corey Clement ran Saturday like a dog that had been kicked one time too many, like he had a stinking point to prove to someone, that’s because — well, he did.
And that particular point was to Wisconsin running backs coach John Settle, who’d spent the past week swinging a boot at his backside. Hell, everybody’s backside.
“It all starts with Coach Sett,” the Badgers’ senior tailback said after running for a season-best 164 rushing yards in No. 8 Wisconsin’s 30-23 overtime loss to No. 2 Ohio State.
“And he said we were all competing for our jobs. And me, personally, as a senior, I didn’t take to that too well. So I really had to step it up and do what I had to do for this team. So I’m happy he said that. And (I) just have to keep this momentum going into next week.”
In fact, Clement seemed downright convivial for a man whose team had just fallen into the ditch of a two-game losing streak — one a seven-point loss at Michigan, the No. 4 team in the country, and the next an overtime defeat at home to the second-ranked Bucks (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten).
“That’s the fire we need in Corey,” said wideout-and-sometimes-wingback Jazz Peavy, whose 70 rushing yards and 146 all-purpose yards were a new personal best. “That’s the fire that I remember seeing in Corey when I first came here. If he keeps that up and keeps improving himself, that’s going to be great.”
The Fighting Urbans weren’t great until late, rallying from a 16-6 halftime deficit and using a goal-line stand in overtime to snuff the Badgers’ upset hopes. Ohio State even had the indignity to toss a couple of recent Badgers benchmarks to the wayside: Before Saturday night, Paul Chryst teams were 13-0 when they’d held a lead at the half. Wisconsin (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) had been 9-0 in games in which Clement had run for at least 100 yards. Not anymore.
But even if the streaks were toast, the Badgers were happy to be buttering the bread again, especially after a slog of an afternoon at Michigan on Oct. 1 that saw Wisconsin limp to just 159 total yards, 71 on the ground.
“I think Michigan hurt even more,” Clement explained. “I think (Saturday), we played lights-out … I think everybody really put out their effort and nobody was questioning whether they left it out on the field.
“I think (the) Michigan (game) was a little shaky, and we don’t know who (was) all in it. And I just think you’ve got to be really appreciative of the opportunities you get when you play these teams.”
“That’s the fire we need in Corey.”
— Wisconsin wide receiver Jazz Peavy
Even in defeat, Bucky found its mojo again, its swagger. And Clement found something against the Buckeyes he felt that he could exploit, thanks to a careful study of Penn State tailback Saquon Barkley — who as a freshman ran for 194 yards on 26 carries against Ohio State last autumn.
“He did an excellent job of just being patient, allowing the holes to open up for him and just, you know, just relax,” Clement explained. “But being with (offensive line) coach (Joe Rudolph) really helped me just get on the same page as the offensive line.”
And it was a hell of a read. The New Jersey native exploded for 12 yards on his first carry. On his fourth tote, midway through the first quarter, he caught a seam and shot up the left sideline for a 68-yard gain.
“I just allowed myself to be patient; that’s what I said to the media (last week),” Clement said. “Just working with those guys (up front). It’s been there all season. I had to do my part and just allow myself to be patient, allow the holes to open up. And (Saturday) was one of the best days I’ve felt and I just allowed the game to come to me. And it showed.”
More importantly, it showed against top-shelf competition. Clement’s 164 yards were a new personal best against a ranked foe and only the second time he’d ever topped the century mark on the ground against a Top 25 opponent.
In his previous 10 games against ranked squads, the Badgers tailback had averaged 12.6 carries, 52.3 yards per contest, and just 4.15 yards per carry.
“I think that was definitely one of those games where I wanted to get the help from my offensive line, especially against Ohio State, who only (gives) up an average of 90 yards per game,” Clement said. “So that was really a blessing to even surpass that number. And really, looking into next week, seeing if I can keep adding on to the numbers.”
The Buckeyes came in to the weekend with the nation’s No. 9 rushing defense, allowing only 97.8 per game on the ground — and Clement went out and nearly doubled that by himself, at a clip of 6.56 yards per tote. In other words, point taken.