We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Wisconsin sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.
Today is Friday, Nov. 4, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
The motivation of Melvin Gordon
Melvin Gordon is a rare individual, both on the field and off. And the reasons for that were highlighted in an article by Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report. The piece delves into the running back’s upbringing, which included his drug-dealing father pushing him to be the best as a youngster, his mother’s guidance and the impact of his father’s incarceration when Gordon was a redshirt freshman at Wisconsin.
Telesco on Melvin Gordon: "We have been very pleased by his play. He gives punishment, he takes punishment."
— XTRA 1360 (@XTRA1360) November 3, 2016
That Gordon was able to keep his mind focused, using football as an outlet for his sadness and anger, is as remarkable as any of the 49 touchdowns he scored for Wisconsin. Kids his age, when they have one of their idols, in this case Gordon’s father, taken away, can fall apart. But Gordon didn’t. Instead he thrived with the backing of his mom, position coach and teammates.
As Dunne describes, as much as a physical freak that he is, Gordon has a softer side that he showed during his career at Wisconsin. He genuinely cares what people think of him, and he would go out of his way to do the right thing, whether it was stopping on campus to sign autographs or taking picture after picture with fans.
That, as much as anything he did on the field, endeared him to the people that filled up Camp Randall Stadium to watch the Badgers. His struggles last season with the San Diego Chargers were felt by those in his home state, just like his successes this year are championed by those that saw him run circles around opponents for three seasons. They knew with his worth ethic, along with some elite natural ability, that it would be impossible for him to fail.
Gordon still has plenty of improving to do, but he’s inching closer to being one of the better backs in the NFL, just as his father, the one that continually tells him he can be the best ever, is set to be released from prison in a month.
Coming into this season, the Wisconsin secondary was by far the biggest question mark on a defense that returned a majority of its front seven. But eight games in, and the group has played at a higher level than many felt it could, helping the Badgers to a 6-2 record and a No. 8 spot in the first College Football Playoff rankings.
The Badgers are allowing 192 yards per game through the air, ranking No. 22 in the country in that category. That’s a little less than 20 yards more per game than a year ago. But when you factor in the level of competition this season to what Wisconsin faced last year, the numbers are essentially a wash. And while you have to give credit to the players, including seniors Sojourn Shelton and Leo Musso, the man coaching them on a daily basis — Jim Leonhard — also deserves a nod.
A 10-year veteran of the NFL and Wisconsin’s all-time leader in interceptions, Leonhard is in his first year of coaching. The results couldn’t be better. He’s helped Musso, a career backup, take the next step and be an impact player at safety. The same for junior D’Cota Dixon, who is tied with junior Derrick Tindal for the team lead in interceptions. Shelton’s confidence is easy to see, while Leonhard has also seen safety-turned-cornerback Lubern Figaro fill in nicely in the absence of junior Natrell Jamerson.
If this year is any indication, Leonhard’s got a bright future in the coaching business. There are some around the program that think he could be a defensive coordinator as early as next year and is certainly capable of being a head coach some day. Whether either of those two happen at Wisconsin remains to be seen. But Leonhard’s ties to the program and Madison would lead you to believe that, though he might be forced to leave at some point to advance his career, a return engagement later on is more than likely.
Going back to Milwaukee
The college basketball season hasn’t even started, but that didn’t stop ESPN’s Joe Lunardi from releasing his first Bracketology of the year. And in it, he has the Badgers as a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region playing in Milwaukee.
Bracketology, at this point, is rather meaningless, just like preseason polls. But if Wisconsin’s projection turns out to be anywhere close, fans should be happy. It’s not so much about the seeding as it is about the location. Everyone remembers what happened the last time the BMO Harris Bradley Center hosted the NCAA Tournament and the Badgers got sent there.
Playing just 78 miles from your home arena is a huge advantage. The Badgers trailed Oregon by as many as 13 points in the third round in 2014, and without the crowd, it seems unlikely they make the comeback they did. Many believe it was the loudest night in arena history.
Big Ten titles and a high seed are significant goals, but for Wisconsin to give itself the best chance to make it back to the Final Four, playing the first weekend in Milwaukee is paramount.
Sam Dekker is among the better players to ever step on the floor at Wisconsin, but he’s had his share of blooper moments, too. And on Wednesday night, the second-year forward for the Houston Rockets had one that will not be forgotten anytime soon.
Dekker is taking all the ribbing he’s getting in stride.
You know when Cleveland's bathtub falls out of the house? Like "no, no, no, no, damn" https://t.co/ht0hQEDF4L
— Sam Dekker (@dekker) November 3, 2016
The fall was comical, largely because of the ball coming back and hitting him in the face. But it’s hard to blame Dekker for being excited out on the break. The guy is forceful dunker, and after being forced to sit most of his rookie season following back surgery, he wanted to put that one home and do it in style.
The unfortunate thing is that Dekker will have better moments in his NBA career, but perhaps none as memorable for those outside of Houston.
- Injuries hitting Nebraska on both sides of the ball as it prepares for Ohio State
- It’s not a World Series level of demand, but Ohio State-Nebraska ticket is a hot ticket
- An oral history: Reliving Iowa’s dramatic win over Penn State in 2008
- Ohio State sweeps Rookie of the Month honors in the NFL
- Former Michigan DC D.J. Durkin returns to Ann Arbor as Maryland’s head coach