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Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen puts on an impressive show in front of his idol

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University of Wisconsin freshman tailback Braelon Allen speaks to the media about meeting former UW running back Melvin Gordon after the Badgers defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 35-28 on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

Braelon Allen wasn’t sure if he liked playing football when he was in fifth grade.

As his youth football season wound down in 2014, he watched University of Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon eviscerate Nebraska for a then-FBS record 408 yards rushing.

“I saw that game and that’s kind of what sparked it all for me,” Allen said. “I was trying to be like him one day.”

Allen had his Gordon moment Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium against those same Cornhuskers, leading UW to a 35-28 win as he shredded Nebraska for 228 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. And he did it in front of the man he grew up idolizing.

“With him being there, I felt like I had to do something today, and my team did a great job helping me do that,” Allen said.

“Today was a big day for him getting a chance to meet Melvin — that’s his hero,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. “I thought it was pretty cool just seeing those two together.”

Gordon was the Badgers’ honorary captain for the pregame coin toss. The former UW star chatted briefly with the current star before the opening kickoff.

“Just told me to do my thing,” Allen said.

Allen did.

He broke off a 70-yard touchdown, his first of the game, which is the second-longest run by a Badgers back this season. He won the game with 2 minutes, 37 seconds left with a 53-yarder that featured his signature blend of patience, physicality and decisiveness.

Allen’s 228 yards ranks 23rd all-time among UW’s single-game rushing performances. It’s his seventh consecutive game with at least 100 yards.

And he’s now in rarified air.

Allen is the sixth freshman in school history to crack 1,000 yards. He sits at 1,062 for the season with at least two games to play. That puts him fifth all-time among UW freshmen — 10 more than James White, who ran for 1,052 in 2010. Allen has a ways to go until he catches Anthony Davis’ 2001 mark of 1,466 yards. But that number might be in danger at the rate Allen’s going.

The only other UW freshmen to reach 1,000?

  • P.J. Hill: 1,569 (2006)
  • Jonathan Taylor: 1,977 (2017)
  • Ron Dayne: 2,109 (1996)

Allen was buried on the depth chart at the start of the season. But a series of departures from the program and injuries to the backs ahead of him opened one opportunity after the other.

Allen battled fumbling issues early as his chances grew, but he learned week by week and cut down on his mistakes. His patience and decision-making grew at the same time.

“I think him just finding holes when as an offensive line I knew we weren’t on point with stuff,” senior left tackle Tyler Beach said when asked what impressed him most this time.

And Allen now stands among some elite company.

“It’s definitely cool, especially to be mentioned again with those guys and guys that I looked up to and watched growing up,” he said.

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