Wisconsin RB Allen plays with power that belies his youth

Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MADISON, Wis.- Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen doesn’t look like a typical 17-year-old.

He doesn’t play like one, either.

Allen graduated from high school early to begin his college football career this fall. He’s still getting accustomed to playing offense on a full-time basis after most colleges recruited him as a safety or linebacker. You wouldn’t know it from the way he runs over much older players.

“It doesn’t matter how much older these guys are,” said Allen, who won’t turn 18 until after the season. “I know they’re not stronger than me, so age doesn’t really play a factor in it.”

Allen, listed as 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, had a breakthrough performance last week by rushing for 131 yards on 18 carries in a 24-0 victory at Illinois. He will try to build on that momentum Saturday when Wisconsin (2-3) hosts Army (3-1).

He already caught the attention of teammates as he continually bowled over Illinois defenders.

“We were literally talking about it on the sideline while he was running the ball,” Wisconsin safety Collin Wilder said after the game. “It’s like, `Wow, this kid should be studying for his algebra test after playing last night back home.”‘

After deciding he was ready to begin playing college football, Allen increased his academic load last year to make sure he could graduate from Fond du Lac (Wisconsin) High School a year early. He already was physically stronger than any of his peers, thanks to consistent weight training that began his freshman year in high school.

Allen moved in with a trainer in the Milwaukee suburb of Muskego this year before enrolling at Wisconsin. He spent that time taking virtual classes while his trainer, Jonny Bridgewater, guided him through two workouts per day.

“Strength is one of the biggest advantages you can have,” Allen said. “I just feel like as I kept getting stronger, as long as I kept my speed and agility, it wasn’t going to be fair eventually. By my last high school season, I felt like I was bigger, stronger but still faster and more agile than anybody else.”

Bridgewater calls Allen “probably one of the top five genetic freaks I’ve ever been able to train in the last 16 years.”

“He can squat over 550 pounds without a belt,” Bridgewater said. “The first time I started training him, I went to go get him a belt. He was like, `I don’t need that.’ I was like, `Are you sure?’ He was (saying), `Trust me. I don’t need that.’ It’s crazy.”

Allen made a similar impression once he got to Wisconsin’s campus and power-cleaned 405 pounds, meaning he lifted that much weight on a barbell from the floor to his shoulders in one movement. Wisconsin center Joe Tippmann recalled that nobody on the team could match it on that particular day.

“I was just like, `Holy hell, this guy is strong,’ ” offensive tackle Tyler Beach said.

That strength is making a difference on the field.

Wisconsin is counting on Clemson transfer Chez Mellusi‘s speed and Allen’s power to give the Badgers a dynamic rushing tandem the rest of the season. Allen’s development is particularly critical now that Jalen Berger – the Badgers’ leading rusher last year – has been dismissed from the team.

Allen believes he and Mellusi are up to the challenge. Mellusi ran for a team-high 145 yards on 21 carries against Illinois as the Badgers totaled 391 yards rushing.

“I think that we showed what we’re capable of,” Allen said. “Anything below that is not reaching our standard that we set.”

The Badgers might even improve upon those totals once Allen gets more experience carrying the ball. Although he did play running back as well as defense in high school, Allen acknowledges he still has much to learn and needs to get better at making defenders miss him in the open field.

That Illinois game helped Allen realize how must improve while showcasing how good he already is.

“At first, I didn’t know what was going on,” Allen said. “I felt like I wasn’t running that hard. I got stuffed in the hole on one of my runs and it kind of made me a little bit angry. That shouldn’t happen to me. So I decided to put my pads down a little bit and started running over people.

“By the end of the game, they just weren’t too interested in tackling me.”

Allen hopes to have plenty of other defenses feeling the same way.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.