Health A Bye-Week Focus

Jacob Pedersen did not play Sat.(USA Today Sports)

Going into the bye week after several of his offensive starters missed or were injured during Wisconsin's 31-24 loss to No.4 Ohio State Saturday, head coach Gary Andersen said one of the team's three main focuses is getting his players rested for No.16 Northwestern in two weeks.

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MADISON — Heading into the first of two off weeks during the month of October, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen has a long to-do list to try to get his football team better.

After the priority of developmental work and having his staff spend the weekend recruiting, getting his team healthy is next in line.

"We'll get them healthy," said Andersen during his Monday news conference. "It's a focus."

One of those banged-up players Wisconsin (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) needs to heal is sophomore tailback Melvin Gordon.

Failing to rush for over 140 yards for the first time this season, Gordon finished with 74 yards on 15 carries in Saturday's 31-24 loss at No. 4 Ohio State before his left knee was landed on during the final play of the third quarter. He did not return, but Andersen said Saturday and reiterated Monday that he expects Gordon to be fine.

"Melvin played well and they tackled well," said Andersen. "I give credit where credit is due and I thought Ohio State's safeties . did a good job of shoe-string tackling him, things we may not (be) used to seeing with Melvin. They made some of those plays, but Melvin was physical, he picks his spot, had some good runs.

"I am sure he's not overly happy with his production against Ohio State, but they made plays. I thought he had a good solid day."

Gordon leads the Big Ten and is eighth nationally in rushing at 139.6 yards per game. Wisconsin's offense was also without three other starters, as tight end Jacob Pedersen (knee), center Dallas Lewallen (knee) and receiver Kenzel Doe (hamstring) all did not play.

Andersen said all three should be fine when Wisconsin - which fell out of the rankings Sunday - takes on No.16 Northwestern Oct.12.

"We are 3-2," said Andersen. "(The players) know where we are at. It's not what we wanted at the beginning but if they keep on battling and keep on fighting, I think they are a very talented football team. The message to them is stay the course. We learn from these situations."

Trailing the Buckeyes by 1.5 games in the division, the Badgers this season won't have the benefit of a watered-down division. Going 4-4 in conference last year, third-place Wisconsin represented the division due to Ohio State and Penn State being deemed ineligible by the NCAA.

Wisconsin ended up beating Nebraska, 70-31, to win its third straight conference title and appear in its third straight Rose Bowl.

Andersen said the players will have their usual practice Tuesday and Wednesday, have a modified day Thursday and get the weekend off before returning for meetings Monday. He said he received about 20 texts from players eager to get back on the practice field after the loss.

"I am proud of these kids," he said. "I am very, very happy I am their coach and I can't wait to get back to work and we will bounce back."

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