MADISON, Wis. — With his team leading comfortably in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon got a kick out of seeing a score on the video board.
It wasn’t the Badgers’ score that had him pumped, either.
Seeing Big Ten West Division leader and archrival Minnesota lose made Wisconsin’s 52-7 victory against Maryland even more enjoyable for Gordon.
“Oh yeah, ha ha ha. I hate Minnesota. I hate ’em,” Gordon said after running for 122 yards and three touchdowns on 22 attempts. “I just don’t like ’em, so when I see ’em lose, it kind of makes me feel good.”
Wisconsin’s two-quarterback system showed signs of life in a surprisingly easy win. Almost everything went right for Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten), even in what until Saturday was a mostly dysfunctional passing game.
Joel Stave started for the second consecutive game and took most of the snaps in tossing two touchdown passes. One was on a long throw to receiver Alex Erickson for a 47-yard score.
Former starter Tanner McEvoy provided the change of pace with his ability to run out of the backfield. He was the quarterback on one of Gordon’s three first-half touchdowns, and ran for a score from 60 yards out in the fourth quarter.
Most importantly for Wisconsin, neither quarterback threw an interception. The Badgers overall didn’t give up a turnover.
Maybe this two-quarterback system can work, after all.
“I think we can be very balanced. I think we’ve got a lot of really good players in this offense, and we’ve just got to continue to work to find ways to put them in positions to make plays,” Stave said.
Stave was 9 of 15 for 155 yards, while McEvoy was 5 of 7 for 44 yards. Possessing the stronger arm, Stave showed a rapport with Erickson, who finished with five receptions for 121 yards.
“We worked on catch and contest balls all through the bye week, all through last week,” Stave said.
Coach Gary Andersen said a two-quarterback system is the “best scenario” for Wisconsin.
“We did have some positives from both young men, and the key is to me … how they handle it, how this team handles it,” Andersen said. “We’re in good shape.”
So is the running game, with Gordon leading the charge. He has scored 15 touchdowns in his past five games, tying Billy Marek’s school record for most in a five-game stretch, initially set in 1974.
Wisconsin remains firmly in the hunt for a division title, especially after Illinois upset Minnesota 28-24 on Saturday to hand the Gophers their first conference loss. Three of Wisconsin’s five remaining games are against the other one-loss teams in the West: Nebraska, Iowa and the regular-season finale against Minnesota.
An optimistic Gordon will be waiting, hoping the offense maintains the momentum it built against Maryland.
“We envisioned this offense being balanced,” Gordon said. “That’s Wisconsin football — being able to run the ball, being able to kill them on the play action.”