Gophers gunning to bring back the axe

As last year’s football season ended, Minnesota coach Glen Mason, his players, and every Gophers fan in the state did the math of the Big Ten standings.
What they calculated was this: If Minnesota had beaten the Badgers, the Gophers would have gone to the Rose Bowl.
Instead, a 20-17 overtime loss sent the Gophers to El Paso for the Sun Bowl and Wisconsin to Pasadena.
But more painful for the players wasn’t knowing their trip to the Rose Bowl faded away, but what they saw after the Badgers game-winning field goal traveled through the uprights.
“When we lost to them last year, we watched them run around our field with the axe and chop down our goal posts,” Gophers wide receiver Ron Johnson said.
The axe Johnson was referring to was that of Paul Bunyan. The axe is a trophy the two schools have fought for since 1948.
The axe — and over a century of games between the two schools — is what makes this Saturday’s game stick out on the schedule.
“College football is the greatest thing going,” Mason said. “Part of that is due to rivalries.”
“Typically when you’re talking about rivalries, it doesn’t matter what the records are.”
As the 110th year of Minnesota-Wisconsin football roles around once again, neither the Gophers nor the Badgers are competing for a Rose Bowl bid as they were a year ago.
Both teams come in with 5-4 records and are just fighting to get to the postseason.
And fighting for the axe.
“It’s one of the oldest rivalries in college football,” Gophers defensive end Karon Riley said. “There is a lot of history in this rivalry.”
Carter gets a shot
After eight games with the Minnesota Vikings, former Gophers standout Tyrone Carter will get his chance this weekend to start for the Purple.
Is there a better time and place than Monday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field?
Probably not.
With the injury to Vikings free safety Orlando Thomas, who is out 8-10 weeks with a broken scapula, Carter moves into the starting spot.
Carter, who played strong safety for the Gophers the past four seasons, was drafted by the Vikings in the fourth round of the NFL Draft in April.
While with the Gophers, Carter set the NCAA record for tackles by a defensive back with 528. He was also last season’s Jim Thorpe Award — given to the nation’s top defensive back.
This season, Carter has seen most of his action returning kickoffs on special teams.

John R. Carter covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]