- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Melvin Gordon is happy the whirlwind is over.

The junior running back for Wisconsin relished the chance to put a chaotic week behind him with work on the practice field as the Badgers prepare for the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl against Auburn. Gordon spent time in Florida at the College Football Awards show and won the Doak Walker Award, an honor given to the nation’s top running back. He then traveled to New York, where he finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

Oh, and in the meantime: Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen left for Oregon State and just this week the Badgers replaced him with Paul Chryst of Pittsburgh. Chryst’s compensation package has the new coach making $2.3 million in the first of a five-year deal, with $100,000 annual raises.

Gordon, who announced he was skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft the same day Andersen quit, said he’s confident the program is in good hands.

“He’s the kind of coach that interacts with players in a good way, not just yelling and screaming - the kind of coach that jokes around and has a little bit of personality,” Gordon said of Chryst, who was the Badgers’ offensive coordinator from 2005-11.

Time away from campus gave Gordon the opportunity to shake off frustration following the 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship. He rushed for 76 yards on 26 carries in the setback.

“The Heisman thing, it was just fun,” Gordon said Thursday. “When coach Andersen left I was surprised, but I understand it’s a business, and coaches are going to do what they need to do for their families. You can’t get upset because if you were in their shoes, you’d probably do the same.”

The 2014 season has been a spectacular one for Gordon, who earned first team All-American honors from The Associated Press earlier this week. He leads the country in rushing yards (2,336), rushing yards per game (179.7) and rushing touchdowns (26). His overall rushing mark also is a Big Ten Conference record.

Gordon enters the Outback Bowl 292 yards shy of Barry Sanders’ NCAA single-season rushing record, and said he is intent on capping his college career with a bowl win. Wisconsin hasn’t won a bowl game since 2009, when it beat Miami 20-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl.

“This is important to me, my teammates, the seniors and the university,” Gordon said. “No one knows how it feels to win a bowl game. We went through a lot of adversity, and we’re just hoping this bowl game can change the way we look at the season.”

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