- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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More than 36 hours later, we finally have an explanation for why Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon was so curiously absent in the second half of Saturday's 28-24 loss to LSU.
Badgers coach Gary Andersen said on Monday that his junior running back suffered a hip flexor strain during the game. Gordon later told reporters that the injury occurred late in the second quarter.
Gordon opened the second half with a 63-yard run but had only two more carries after that as Wisconsin's offense stalled during LSU's comeback. After the game, Andersen said Gordon had a "scenario" at halftime and that he didn't know why Gordon -- who did return in the fourth quarter on pass protection -- didn't play more.
On Monday, Andersen said, "we were trying to be smart" with Gordon's injury. Gordon, who told the media after the game that he was not hurt, said on Monday that there was miscommunication between him and the coaching staff.
"I should have let them know, let Coach A know and stepped up and told them, 'Look I need to be in there," Gordon said, according to Fox Sports Wisconsin's Jesse Temple. "I put that on myself."
Gordon also said he didn't feel like he was hurt that much and that he has played through worse pain than what he felt on Saturday.
There's still something very odd about this whole story. Why did neither Andersen nor Gordon mention the hip problem after the game? Some coaches want to protect their players by not revealing injury news publicly, but the game was already over and it came out on Monday, anyway. Why was there such poor communication, apparently, between Gordon and his coaches in such an important game and when the offense needed him most? What role did the athletic training staff play here?
It might not have ultimately mattered to the outcome, because once LSU adjusted its defense and started loading the box to stop the run, the Badgers had no passing game whatsoever to counter. Even the best tailbacks will struggle against nine- and 10-man fronts. Yet Gordon is one of the most talented players in the country, and he might have been able to at least help Wisconsin gain a few first downs to stem the Tigers' comeback and possibly break off a home run.
If Gordon is still injured, even a little bit, then he really doesn't need to play much if at all this week against Western Illinois, a wildly overmatched FCS team. Wisconsin doesn't need him to win that game, and it really needs to work on improving its passing, especially with Andersen's announcement that Tanner McEvoy would remain the starting quarterback despite going 8-of-24 for 50 yards and two interceptions.
Seeing Gordon carry the ball often against Western Illinois would only add to the confusion about what happened on Saturday night, which Monday's news only partially clarified.