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Muschamp gets close look in Auburn's 34-31 loss to Wisconsin

2 years 9 months 2 weeks ago Thursday, January 01 2015 Jan 1, 2015 January 01, 2015 4:40 PM January 01, 2015 in Sports
Source: Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. - Incoming Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp got an eyeful in the Tigers' latest loss.

Melvin Gordon ran for an Outback Bowl-record 251 yards and three touchdowns, and Rafael Gaglianone kicked a 25-yard field goal in overtime to give the 18th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers a 34-31 victory over the No. 19 Tigers on Thursday.

Auburn fired defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson after yielding 539 yards to Alabama and finishing ninth in the SEC in total defense, and wasted no time in hiring the former Florida coach to lead the Tigers defense next season.

Muschamp was on the field before the game and wearing headphones in the coaches box during it, but not working while interim defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison led the unit against Wisconsin.

"He was listening and observing," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "He's trying to get to know our guys and see how they react. He's going to get our defense going."

Gordon scored on runs of 25, 53 and 6 yards, bouncing back from a subpar performance in the Big Ten championship game to threaten Barry Sanders' FBS single-season rushing record.

"Before you play a guy, you'd be like 'you've got to show me' and today he showed us that he's one of the best running backs in the country," Auburn cornerback Trovon Reed said.

The Wisconsin star, who has already declared he'll skip his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL draft, finished with 2,587 yards in 14 games -- second most in FBS history. Sanders gained 2,628 in 11 games in 1988, when the NCAA did not include bowl results in a player's season or career statistic totals.

Nick Marshall threw for two touchdowns for Auburn, which also got a pair of TDs on the ground from Cameron Artis-Payne. The Tigers (8-5) were unable to move the ball in overtime, though, and lost when Daniel Carlson's 45-yard field goal hit the right upright and bounced away.

Joel Stave threw a 7-yard scoring pass to Corey Clement for an early Wisconsin lead. The Badgers' offense, however, didn't really take off until it started feeding Auburn's defense a steady diet of Gordon, who finished second in Heisman Trophy balloting.

Gordon went over 100 yards for the day with a 17-yard gain of the first play of the second half. His 27th rushing TD finished a six-play, 75-yard march Stave led without putting the ball in the air. His 28th, on a carry up the middle on fourth-and-1, put the Badgers ahead 21-17 late in the third quarter.

"He just keeps his motor running and that makes him tough," Auburn defensive tackle Ben Bradley said.

Gordon's 251 yards was the most by an Auburn opponent, topping the old mark of 241 set by Arkansas' Fred Talley in 2002.

Stave completed 14 of 27 passes for 121 yards. He threw two of his three interceptions in the first half, but that didn't stop him from making a couple of big completions on a 64-yard drive the Badgers put together to send the game into overtime.

With help from a 20-yard run by Gordon and an accompanying 15-yard penalty on Auburn for a late hit on the running back out of bounds, Wisconsin marched to the Auburn 11 before settling for Gaglianone's 29-yard field goal.

Marshall threw TD passes of 66 yards Ricardo Louis and 20 yards to C.J. Uzomah. Artis-Payne, who rushed for 126 yards, scored on a pair of 2-yard runs -- the second giving Auburn a 31-28 lead.

Both teams were coming off disappointing losses, Wisconsin falling 59-0 to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game and Auburn rolling up 630 yards total offense in coming up short 55-44 against Alabama in the Tigers' regular season finale.

"That product we put on the field against Ohio State wasn't us," Gordon said. "We wanted to come out here and show the world that we're better than that."

The Badgers also had upheaval before the Outback Bowl, with Gary Andersen's abrupt decision to leave Wisconsin to coach Oregon State.

Andersen's departure brought Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez back to the sideline on an interim basis to coach in a bowl for the second time in three seasons.

"That's it," said Alvarez when asked if he would coach again. "No mas. No mas. You've got people down here in Tampa that understand that. No mas."

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