Melvin Gordon and James White, the engines powering UW football
One of the few certain things in this world, the success of the Badgers’ run game year in and year out, is nothing short of extraordinary. Alan Ameche, Ron Dayne, Montee Ball and now the dynamic duo of senior James White and redshirt sophomore Melvin Gordon have all left their mark on Wisconsin.
White and Gordon, Wisconsin’s signature backs this season, recorded 2,880 combined rushing yards in the regular season, propelling UW to second in total rushing yardage in the Big Ten, behind only Ohio State.
The duo has also found the end zone 25 times, giving the backs plenty of opportunity to perfect their touchdown dance, which was even mimicked by James Starks and Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers.
White and Gordon have truly been the driving force behind the Badgers’ success, at times complementing the play of an up-and-down quarterback in redshirt sophomore Joel Stave, and other times picking up his slack.
Possibly the most telling statistic of how important the pair was to the Badgers’ success this year is that except for Arizona State, Wisconsin has won every game this season when at least one running back has recorded over 100 yards, and UW has lost every game in which they haven’t struck triple digits.
The strength of UW’s ground game is born from its shared burden—whenever one running back is having a bad game, there are others that can step up and share the load. For that, we’ve chosen both White and Gordon as The Daily Cardinal’s top athletes of the semester.
AJ Cochran anchors a UW team with a perfect home record
It was a special season all around for the Wisconsin men’s soccer team, but junior defender AJ Cochran had perhaps the most memorable one.
Starting in every game of the season, the preseason All-American selection led a defensive unit that had seven shutouts, and allowed just seven goals in Big Ten play. The Saint Louis, Mo., native also added three goals, a career high, including two game-winners.
For his efforts, the junior was the first Badger to be named the Big Ten conference‘s Defensive Player of the Year. Teammate redshirt senior midfielder Tomislav Zadro won Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Year, making the Badgers just the second school in Big Ten history to receive both awards in the same season.
The First-Team All-Big Ten selection is also currently one of the semifinalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded annually to the top collegiate soccer player in the nation.
Guiding the Badgers to one of their most successful seasons to date, Cochran anchored a defense that led the way for Wisconsin to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 18 years.
Cochran is the only Big Ten athlete among the 15 semifinalists for the Hermann Trophy.
Should he win, Cochran would be the first Wisconsin soccer player ever to receive the prestigious award.
The field gets trimmed down to the final three candidates Dec. 12, and the ultimate winner is announced in January.
Redshirt freshman extraordinare Malachy Schrobilgen
For the first time in 20 years the men’s Big Ten Cross-Country Athlete of the Year and Rookie of the Year were one in the same.
Badger redshirt freshman Malachy Schrobilgen took home both awards this season. The only other runners to accomplish this feat were Michigan’s Kevin Sullivan in 1993 and Indiana’s Bob Kennedy in 1988.
Head coach Mick Byrne had been aware of Schrobilgen since the summer of his junior year of high school, when he came with his friend and future Badger cross country runner Jack Stapleton to Madison for a summer cross country camp.
Once Byrne was able to start recruiting Schrobilgen before his senior year, the choice became easy.
“I think I knew that I wanted to come to Wisconsin the minute I stepped on campus. I loved how the guys on the team held a high standard of themselves,” Schrobilgen said.
He followed up a strong performance in the Big Ten Championship race with a ninth place finish in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship and 33rd place finish at the NCAA National Championship.
Schrobilgen had the highest finish for all Badger runners in the National Championship, helping guide UW to ninth place and earn himself All-American honors to cap off a tremendous season.
Schrobilgen has three years of eligibility left, and leads a young group of men who have proven themselves this season.
The future of the Badgers’ cross country team looks like it is in good hands for years to come.