CHICAGO — Kinnick Stadium’s notoriously tight sidelines give Iowa fans a chance to heckle and jeer opponents with no room to hide, something Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon knows all too well.
The preseason All-American spent a miserable day in Iowa City last November, even in a 28-9 Badgers’ win. He produced his toughest day as a regular contributor, rushing 17 times for just 62 yards. Even worse, he heard about every misstep when he returned to the sideline.
“I can’t say on camera what they said,” Gordon said. “It was pretty funny now that I think about it. But they’re like right there and they’re in your ear all game, whether you’re winning or you’re losing, they’re in your ear, in your ear, in your ear. It gets to you if you don’t know how to handle it.”
Gordon, a red-shirt junior, had an idea of what to expect because he had witnessed it himself as a high schooler. Gordon committed to Iowa in 2010 as a senior at Kenosha (Wis.) Bradford. He was on a visit late that year during Iowa’s 20-17 loss to Ohio State. Shortly thereafter, Gordon switched to Wisconsin.
He anticipated a rude welcome walking into Kinnick Stadium last fall, the longtime rivals’ first meeting after a two-year interruption. But he was not prepared for what he received.
“I knew it was bad, they told about that,” Gordon said. “But I didn’t know it was going to be that bad. It was even worse because I had decommitted from there so I’m telling you they had this paper and they were quoting everything, everything. Everything! They quoted me word for word. It was amazing. I didn’t think it would be that bad, but it was.
“It was two guys really just right there. You’d walk down a little, and you’ve got those guys talking trash and right behind our bench and you’d see the same guys, the same two or three guys right there letting you have it. I hope they’re not there next year. I really do. They know who they are if they’re watching this.”
Gordon struggled mentally to stay in the game. had 18 yards at halftime and was going nowhere. Gordon relied on fellow running back James White to help him maintain his cool.
“I’ve never been in that situation before where someone is just sitting there talking, talking, talking trash in your ear all day,” Gordon said. “I’d never been in that situation before. (White) has, so he definitely helped me out with that.
“He’d grab me and say, ‘Mel, just calm down. Be cool, they’re going to talk trash and be in your ear.’ I wasn’t playing well and that just added fire to everything. They were really getting after me.”
Gordon, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 213 pounds, had a stellar sophomore season, finishing 10th nationally and second in the Big Ten with 1,609 rushing yards. He was the only running back with three runs of 70-plus yards and had eight games of 140 or more yards rushing. He led the country in yards per attempt at 7.8, but he finished at 3.6 that day in Kinnick.
Much to his horror, Gordon found out he’ll have to play in Iowa City yet again this fall. It’s the third straight meeting between the teams at Kinnick. Iowa last played at Camp Randall Stadium in 2009.
“I (saw) the schedule and I’m like, ‘Really, we’ve got to go back?’” Gordon said. “I thought they’d at least come here and get a little taste of Wisconsin. I just got to be ready for it. I’ve been through it so I know how to handle it.
“I’ll probably bring some ear buds with me this time.”
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