Paul Bunyan’s Axe Has Been Handed Back to the Badgers
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Braelon Allen rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns to carry Wisconsin past rival Minnesota 28-14 on Saturday, giving the Badgers possession of Paul Bunyan's Axe after a two-year absence.
Tanner Mordecai threw for scores to Will Pauling and Riley Nowakowski and had a career-high 69 yards rushing on nine scrambles to help Wisconsin (7-5, 5-4 Big Ten) finish on an upswing in a trying first season under coach Luke Fickell.
Hunter Wohler had 12 tackles for the blitz-heavy Badgers, who raced to the west end zone to get their hands on the hardware for the oldest rivalry in major college football. The Gophers haven't had the axe in their trophy case for three straight years since they won four in a row from 1984-87.
Jordan Nubin rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown for Minnesota (5-7, 3-6), which failed to secure bowl eligibility but remained alive for a postseason game with a nationwide shortage of six-win teams. The Gophers were also aiming to house the axe together with the pig — known as Floyd of Rosedale — for the first winter since 1990. That's the last year they beat both of their primary rivals, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Allen, who returned from a leg injury earlier than expected last week with 22 carries and two touchdowns including the overtime winner to beat Nebraska, didn't look banged up at all. He broke three tackles on a 50-yard rumble in the third quarter and followed with a 5-yard touchdown run on the next play to give the Badgers their first lead.
Wisconsin: The injuries that caused multi-game absences for Allen, Mordecai and several others made the debut season for Fickell and his staff difficult to fairly assess, though the Badgers concerningly had more than their share of ugly performances on offense. This game with 412 total yards on a balance of between-the-tackles power running plays and field-stretching passes was a blueprint for future success in the Big Ten once the high-octane West Coast teams arrive and the divisions disappear.
Minnesota: The inability or unwillingness to step on the gas when there's a potential game-shifting play to be made has been a problem for the Gophers not only this season but for much of coach P.J. Fleck's seven-year tenure. They started their third drive at midfield late in the first quarter but went three-and-out with a punt from the Wisconsin 43. The Badgers then went 86 yards in 11 plays to tie the game. Late in the second quarter, the Gophers called an up-the-middle run on third-and-5 from their 45 that was stuffed for no gain with 1:17 left before halftime.
Wisconsin: The Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee, on Dec. 30 is a good bet for the Badgers. The ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa, Florida, on Jan. 1 is a possibility, too. An SEC team is lined up for both games. As for next season, the Badgers host Western Michigan in their opener on Aug. 31.
Minnesota: The Gophers left the field needing a handful of other FBS matchups involving 5-6 teams to break their way throughout the night. They open next season at home against North Carolina on Aug. 29.