Third-down offense left to be desired

Minnesota converted three of 14 third downs. Wisconsin converted six of 10.

by Mark Remme

;MADISON, Wis. – Minnesota watched its offense stall for roughly 1 1/2 quarters Saturday.

The Gophers picked up their last first down of the first quarter with nearly 3:30 remaining and did not pick up another first down until nine minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Much of Minnesota’s nonexistent offensive performance can be attributed to its 3-of-14 third-down conversions.

“We couldn’t convert a third down, and we just couldn’t move the ball,” coach Glen Mason said.

Defining Moment

After gaining 26 yards on its first three plays, Minnesota’s opening drive quickly stalled at midfield when junior running back Amir Pinnix fumbled and Wisconsin’s sophomore cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu recovered and ran 50 yards for a score and an early 7-0 lead.
– Ty Rushmeyer

On the other side of the ball, Minnesota’s defense couldn’t get a third-down stop for much of the game.

Wisconsin converted six of its 10 third-down plays, and was a perfect 5-of-5 scoring inside the red zone.

Mason said the all-around dismal performance reflected on a poor strategy by the head coach.

“You can put this all on my shoulders,” he said. “If a team doesn’t play good offensively or defensively or in the kicking game, there’s only one person to blame, and that’s me.”

Camp Randall curse

Minnesota’s football team continued a streak of awful performances at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.

The Gophers last won Paul Bunyan’s Axe in Madison in 1994 with a 17-14 victory. They have come up short in six subsequent attempts.

The loss marks the largest margin of defeat by the Gophers to the Badgers since a 56-17 loss in 1983.

Minnesota still leads the all-time series 59-49-8. The 116 meetings make it the most-played rivalry in Division 1-A football.

Wisconsin is developing a tradition of dominance over Minnesota, however, as the Badgers have won 10 of the past 12 meetings.

Another Stocco win

Wisconsin senior quarterback John Stocco is making his mark on the Badgers’ record books, and his efficiency against Minnesota has only improved his statistics.

The Richfield, Minn., native improved his career record against the Gophers to 3-0 Saturday.

Stocco completed 12 of 19 passes for 193 yards and four touchdowns in Wisconsin’s 48-12 win Saturday.

But his 2004 performance against Minnesota – a 38-14 win over the bowl-eligible Gophers – proved to be his coming out party for Minnesota fans.

The then-sophomore signal caller passed for 297 yards and one touchdown while running for two more scores.

Stocco has passed for an average 238 yards in his three games against the Gophers, and has completed seven touchdown passes.

High school link

Sophomore linebacker Deon Hightower had more than just a college rivalry on the line when he stepped into Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.

Hightower was playing for bragging rights over a former high school classmate.

Wisconsin wide receiver Jarvis Minton and Hightower both graduated from Mansfield High School in Arlington, Texas.

“It was more personal for me because I have a high school friend who plays for (Wisconsin),” Hightower said. “We competed all day, and Jarvis had a good game today.”

Minton said having a personal connection to Hightower made playing for Paul Bunyan’s Axe that much more anticipated.

“It’s good to have something to talk about with him,” he said. “All week, we’ve been back and forth with that.”