Wisconsin Badgers Chop Down Minnesota, Head To Big Ten Title Game


The Wisconsin Badgers had another one of their slow starts on Saturday against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium.

All that was at stake, after all was the Paul Bunyan Axe and—oh, by the way—a trip to Indianapolis next week for the Big Ten championship game.

The Golden Gophers (8-4) jumped out to a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter but it was all Badgers (10-2) from there, as Wisconsin pulled out a 34-24 win.

It was the Badgers’ seventh straight win after opening conference play with a disastrous loss at Northwestern—one that will likely haunt Wisconsin should it beat Ohio State next week.

Melvin Gordon scored two touchdowns—one on the ground and one through the air—and rushed for 151 yards on 29 carries, but for the first time in a long time, he wasn’t the story for Wisconsin.

Nov 29, 2014; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Corey Clement (6) rushes with the football during the third quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Clement’s 28-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put Wisconsin ahead for the first time, 20-17, and he finished with 89 yards on just seven carries.

Meanwhile, Joel Stave’s redemption tour continued to the tune of 215 yards and two touchdowns on 11-of-18 passing.

Alex Erickson had a big day for the Badgers, as well, catching five passes for 160 yards.

Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner got the first score, a 10-yard touchdown run after a Wisconsin turnover on special teams. Kenzel Doe fumbled on a punt return and Eric Murray jumped on it at the Wisconsin 13.

Two plays later, the Gophers were on the board.

Wisconsin answered with a 12-play, 69-yard drive, but Stave’s pass to tight end Sam Arneson on third-and-goal from the Minnesota 5 was incomplete and the Badgers had to settle for Rafael Gaglianone’s 24 yard field goal.

David Cobb broke a 40-yard touchdown run with 1:56 left in the first quarter for the Gophers after a short punt by Drew Meyer gave Minnesota terrific field position.

Ryan Santoso booted a 37-yard field goal with 10:48 to go in the first half to put Minnesota up 17-3.

Nov 29, 2014; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Joel Stave (2) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Stave hit Erickson for a 70-yard gain to the Minnesota 8-yard line and three plays later, Gordon caught a short pass from Stave for a 4-yard score.

Wisconsin got the ball back late and Stave and Erickson hooked up for completions of 35 and 14 yards to set up Gaglianone for a 38-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

Clement’s 28-yard score came after Minnesota’s Briean Boddy-Calhoun kept the Badgers’ drive alive with a pass interference penalty.

Gordon’s 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter gave the Badgers a 27-17 lead with 10:57 to play, but Minnesota answered with a 2-yard touchdown run by Leidner. The score was set up by a 53-yard completion from Leidner to tight end Maxx Williams.

The Badgers answered with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Stave to Robert Wheelwright with 4:41 left. It was the first career touchdown and the first catch of the season for the sophomore from Columbus, Ohio.

Cobb finished with 118 yards on 25 carries for the Badgers and Leidner ran for 54 yards on 14 attempts. But he was just 5-for-18 for 95 yards through the air and Wisconsin outgained the Gophers 448-272.

The win enabled Wisconsin to hang onto the Paul Bunyan Axe for an 11th straight year. Minnesota’s last win in the long-running rivalry came in 2003.

The Badgers, who won the Big Ten West Division title with a 7-1 record, now head to Lucas Oil Stadium next Saturday night to play the Buckeyes, who improved to 11-1 with a 42-28 win over Michigan, but lost freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett to a broken ankle.

A win next week would give the Badgers their second Big Ten title in three years  and their fourth in the last five.

But that loss to Northwestern will hang around the Badgers’ collective neck when the College Football Playoff committee does its work. It’s hard to envision a scenario by which Wisconsin could jump into the top four, particularly since beating Ohio State would be less impressive with Barrett out of the lineup.

Still, a win would propel Wisconsin into one of the elite bowl games—the Rose Bowl is unavailable as it will host one of the two CFP semifinal games.

Kickoff next week is 7:17 p.m. Central.

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