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Badgers football: Heisman hype wears on Melvin Gordon

2014-08-27T06:45:00Z Badgers football: Heisman hype wears on Melvin GordonANDY BAGGOT abaggot@madison.com, 608-252-6175 madison.com

It almost sounded like Melvin Gordon was giving himself a pep talk.

The junior tailback for the University of Wisconsin football team was in the middle of a media scrum Monday when he was asked a timely question that got a candid reply.

How does Gordon think he’s handling the Heisman Trophy hype?

“It gets tough at times,” he said. “I have high expectations for myself already and now everybody has high expectations for me.”

Gordon said he’s “stressing a little bit more than I usually do.”

Gordon, from Kenosha, is the No. 2 returning rusher in the nation with 1,609 yards. He bypassed an opportunity to declare for the NFL draft earlier this year. He’s trying to join Rufus Ferguson, Billy Marek, Ron Dayne, Anthony Davis, P.J. Hill, John Clay and Montee Ball as UW backs to top 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.

In advance of the season opener Saturday night with LSU in

Houston, Gordon said he’s watched video and compared his work from his past two training camps to try and put his mind at ease.

“I feel like I’m playing better (now) and had a better camp,” he said.

By the sounds of things, the opener against the 13th-ranked Tigers can’t come soon enough for Gordon.

“I’m just stressed for no reason and I feel like I’m not working hard enough sometimes and that’s not the case,” he said. “I just got to clear that out, man, and just get ready to play.”

Much to gain

UW coach Gary Andersen was asked Tuesday morning during the Big Ten coaches teleconference about the pros and cons of a neutral-site game against a big-time opponent.

“The pros, from a recruiting standpoint, it definitely helps us and gets us on the national stage,” he said. “We’re playing an SEC team and, quite frankly, we’re playing traditionally over the last few years one of the best teams in the country. So kids like that when they’re recruited. We get to find out exactly where we sit early on in the season. I think that’s a positive for us and especially with as youthful as we are. We’ll get a real idea of how we match up against a very physical football team, and that will be good for us this year. …

“I think it’s a great experience for the kids to get to go into an NFL stadium and be able to play. Those memories should last a lifetime for them.

“I think the cons are the same a little bit: You’re playing a quality opponent the first game of the year and there are so many what-ifs in the first game. What’s your team like? How is your team going to go out and handle itself? Some may say that’s not a great time to have the game, but you’re going to play a game like this in the environment of college football today, the first game of the year is definitely the one to do it, in my opinion.”

Meanwhile, game officials announced Tuesday night that all of the tickets for Saturday’s game have been sold.

Familiar opponent

LSU made the cut when George Rushing narrowed his list of college choices to five. In fact, the talented wide receiver from Miramar, Florida, was scheduled to visit the Tigers’ campus in Baton Rouge until he decided to cancel and visit UW instead.

“It was amazing,” Rushing said. “I fell in love with the place.”

Beating the Tigers for Rushing’s services was particularly impressive when you consider he has three friends from Florida on the LSU roster.

One of his best friends, John Battle, is a freshman safety from Hallandale. The other two are Rashard Robinson, a sophomore defensive back from Pompano Beach, and Maquedius Bain, a redshirt freshman defensive tackle from Fort Lauderdale.

Rushing liked how UW wide receivers coach Chris Beatty was persistent, even after Rushing orally committed to Louisville. Rushing said he felt he owed it to Beatty to at least come to Madison for a visit and take a closer look at UW. Rushing also considered TCU and Missouri.

“The big part for me was depth chart and education,” Rushing said. “As I went down a list of schools, I just wanted to make sure it was a right fit for me overall, somewhere I wanted to live, good coaches, good family environment. I think this school fits me the best.”

Rushing, who had an impressive camp and has drawn raves from his teammates, Beatty and Anderson, said he had no intentions of engaging in any trash talk with his buddies this week.

“No time,” he said. “It’s all football this week.”

Stave speaks

Offensive players were available for interviews for the first time since news broke last week that Tanner McEvoy had won the starting quarterback job over Joel Stave.

No official announcement has been made, putting McEvoy and Stave in an awkward position when questions were asked about the situation.

Stave was asked how his preparation would change as a backup: “I’m going to prepare like I did when I was a redshirt freshman and basically knew I wasn’t going to play,” he said. “My preparation doesn’t change.”

Does Stave feel he can still have an impact on the LSU game, even if he doesn’t start?

“You know, that’s not really up to me,” he said. “I think I’ll have as big an impact as I’m given an opportunity to. I just want to make sure that I’m ready, I’m prepared, and whatever opportunity that I get I want to make the most of it.”

— Jim Polzin contributed to this report.

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