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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland's defense has one imposing objective Saturday at Wisconsin: neutralize running back Melvin Gordon and the nation's leading rushing attack.
The Terrapins (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) can become bowl eligible for a second straight season with a win over the Badgers (4-2, 1-1). To do so, Maryland must find a way to keep Gordon from running rampant in Wisconsin's 55th game at venerable Camp Randall Stadium.
Gordon, a 6-foot-1, 213-pound junior, leads the nation with an average of 174.3 yards per game as part of an offense that's averaging 343 yards rushing. Gordon averages a whopping 8.03 yards per carry and has scored 14 touchdowns.
"We've got a tremendous challenge in trying to stop Melvin Gordon," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday. "He's very special. He's got speed, he's got good vision, he's good explosiveness and power as well. He's an all-around back."
Gordon runs behind an offensive line with five players who weigh well over 300 pounds.
"They try to gain leverage on you, outnumber you. You've to be really good in terms of making sure you protect the edges," Edsall said.
The Terrapins are allowing an average of 198 yards rushing per game. Ohio State rung up 269 yards on the ground, Indiana tallied 206 and Syracuse ran for 370 in a losing effort.
But Maryland held Iowa to 116 yards on 31 carries in a 38-31 win last week, so there's hope.
"Their offensive line is bigger," Terps defensive end Andre Monroe said of Wisconsin, "we've just to keep doing what we do. If we execute well, we can make it happen."
Linebacker L.A. Goree said: "They play like Iowa, to be honest with you. Load the box, run the ball. But Wisconsin has a big offensive line, and that plays to their advantage."
In his last four games, Gordon has scored four touchdowns and averaged 8.8 yards per carry. Now, he's coming off a bye and looking for more.
The Terrapins hope finesse and discipline with be enough to overcome size and power.
"You've got to make sure everybody fits properly versus the runs that you're going to see," Edsall said. "If you don't, he has the ability to hurt you."
Maryland doesn't want to get into a back-and-forth duel with the Badgers in this first-ever meeting between the teams, but if the game becomes a shootout the Terrapins have the firepower to compete.
Against Iowa, Maryland rallied from a 14-point deficit and extended its run of games scoring at least 24 points to seven — most in school history to begin a season.