Wisconsin Badgers retain Paul Bunyan's Axe
MINNEAPOLIS—James White rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown and No. 16 Wisconsin beat Minnesota for the 10th straight time in a 20-7 victory on Saturday.
Jared Abbrederis had seven catches for 67 yards and a touchdown and Chris Borland recovered two fumbles and forced one to tie the NCAA record for career fumbles caused. After the game, the Badgers (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) hoisted Paul Bunyan’s Axe and used it to chop the Gophers goal post when the time ran out.
Aaron Hill returned an interception for a touchdown and David Cobb rushed for 68 yards for the Golden Gophers (8-3, 4-3). But Philip Nelson completed just 7 of 23 passes for 83 yards and the Gophers turned the ball over three times to snap a four-game winning streak.
Joel Stave was 16 for 26 for 127 yards with one touchdown and one interception for Wisconsin, which has won six in a row since a tough loss at Ohio State on Sept. 28. Borland’s strip of Cobb midway through the third quarter gave him 14 forced fumbles for his career, which ties him with five other players for the FBS record.
One of the nation’s top linebackers, Borland was all over the field on Saturday, and the Badgers held an opponent under 10 points for the seventh time this season. Only Alabama has done it more.
The Badgers have thoroughly dominated this rivalry lately, a run that has clearly started to wear thin with the Gophers. After the Badgers pretended to chop down one goal post, the team started to cross the field toward the other end. The Gophers encircled the goalpost in front of their student section and refused to let the Badgers do it to the other one. There was some pushing and shoving, but the confrontation ended without incident.
For the first time in recent memory, there was some hype surrounding this late-season meeting in the most-played rivalry in the country. The Badgers have dominated for a decade now, but the Gophers had reeled off four straight Big Ten victories for the first time since 1973 and entered the game brimming with confidence.
The temperature was a chilly 18 degrees at kickoff, and it was just 5 when factoring in the wind chill. Perfect weather for two ground-and-pound teams who treat the forward pass like a novelty.
The Badgers steamrolled into TCF Bank Stadium after racking up a staggering 554 yards rushing against Indiana last week. White took the opening handoff for 49 yards, but the Gophers defense stiffened after that.
Minnesota forced Wisconsin to kick a field goal on its opening drive, then stuffed the Badgers on three straight possessions before Michael Amaefula hit Stave low just as he was throwing the ball. Hill stepped in and picked off the pass, returning it 39 yards to get the Gophers on the board.
But just when the Gophers appeared to be grabbing control of the game with the ball in Wisconsin territory, Brendan Kelly sacked Nelson and forced a fumble that Borland pounced on to end the threat. White ripped off a 19-yard run and punched it in from one yard out five plays later to give the Badgers a 10-7 lead late in the second quarter.
Nelson made another mistake on the next drive, taking an intentional grounding penalty that cost the Gophers 17 yards of field position and allowed the Badgers to get the ball back in Minnesota territory late in the half. Once again the Gophers defense stood tall, holding Wisconsin to a field goal to go into halftime down 13-7.
Eventually, that relentless Wisconsin offense started to assert itself. The Badgers came out of halftime with a 12-play, 83-yard drive that chewed up 7:05, culminating in a 2-yard TD from Stave to Abbrederis to knocked the wind out of a juiced up stadium.
The Badgers could have put the game away a little sooner. But on fourth-and-2 from the Minnesota 26 in the fourth quarter, coach Gary Andersen called for a fake field goal. Kicker Jack Russell threw a backward pass to Jacob Pedersen, who lost seven yards on the play.
But Nelson missed a wide open Maxx Williams on fourth down, and the Badgers closed it out.