IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa played one of its best games this season with all of its goals still within reach.
The Hawkeyes fell a few plays short against Melvin Gordon and Wisconsin, leaving little but pride to play for in Friday's finale against Nebraska.
Gordon surpassed 2,000 yards rushing with 200 yards and two touchdowns, and 14th-ranked Wisconsin held off Iowa 26-24 on Saturday for its sixth straight win.
Jake Rudock had 311 yards passing and two TDs for the Hawkeyes (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten), who rallied from 16 down to get to 26-24 with just more than 5 minutes left but couldn't finish off a comeback.
Iowa and Nebraska wrap up the regular season in Iowa City on Friday.
It could have been a matchup for the Big Ten West title. Instead, it'll likely determine which mid-level bowl each team heads to.
"We lost. There's nothing good about that," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Winning is what you work so hard for. But how you do play is important, win or lose."
Gordon became the 17th FBS player with a 2,000-yard rushing season. Wisconsin (9-2, 6-1) still has to beat Minnesota in Madison next weekend to earn a shot at Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.
Gordon's performance came only hours after Oklahoma's Samaje Perine broke his week-old FBS record with 427 yards rushing in a win over Kansas. But Gordon was sensational in his own right, cracking the 2,000-yard mark on an 88-yard run midway through the third quarter.
Wisconsin watched its 16-point lead dwindle to 19-17 early in the fourth quarter.
Gordon made sure the Badgers didn't blow it. He caught a 35-yard pass on third-and-13 and followed his blockers for the 23-yard TD run that put Wisconsin ahead 26-17.
Rudock's 9-yard TD pass to Jake Duzey with 5:01 left made it 26-24, but Joel Stave's 12-yard run with 1:55 left clinched it for the Badgers.
Stave was 11 of 14 passing for 139 yards.
Gordon had a sluggish first half, running for just 39 yards against an Iowa defense that was intent on stopping him. But he reminded everyone why he's the top back in the country early in the third quarter.
He broke left and bolted for a career-high 88 yards before cornerback Greg Mabin caught him from behind. Iowa held the Badgers to a field goal that put them up 19-3.
Gordon reached 2,000 yards on 241 carries — faster than anyone in NCAA history — and tied Ron Dayne's single-season Big Ten mark of 2,109
But Rudock rallied the reeling Hawkeyes with an impressive 20-yard TD strike to Kevonte Martin-Manley. Rudock then pulled Iowa to 19-17 on a 3-yard TD run with 11:10 left, but his two-point conversion throw was incomplete.
"Quarterback caught fire and it just went from there. He threw some nice balls and I thought our pass rushing was not good enough," Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said.
Iowa looked at its final two-game homestand in August and hoped it would be in position to win the West in November.
It was, but Gordon and the Badgers proved too tough to stop.
"It hurts. It hurts when you come up two points short," Ferentz said. "You have to get back up on your feet."
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