Gameday: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin Blog

Austin Cumblad

It’s all over. On fourth and four from the 28, Adam Weber had the ball intercepted by Niles Brinkley and three kneel downs later, the Badgers won 35-32. Ultimately, Minnesota just made too many mistakes to win this game. Giving up two safeties and fumbling at the 10-yard line twice (both fumbles led to touchdowns) came back to haunt the Gophers. It seems only fitting…Camp Randall has haunted Minnesota for a long time, and it will for at least another two years since the Gophers host the Badgers next year. Perhaps TCF Bank Stadium will be cursed for Wisconsin… Update: Don’t go anywhere just yet. After a turnover and subsequent Wisconsin touchdown that seemingly sealed the game for the Badgers, Minnesota drove right down the field in 2:44 for a touchdown. After catching a 13-yard pass from Adam Weber, Shady Salamon ran for a two-point conversion and the Gophers’ deficit sits at three with just under four minutes remaining in the game. Update: This game is becoming an absolute train wreck for the Gophers. Shady Salamon fumbled the toss on an option from Adam Weber, Wisconsin jumped on the football at Minnesota’s 11 and scored two plays later. 35-24 Badgers with seven minutes left in the game. Update: Another safety…two sacks by Wisconsin, the second was in the end zone. 28-24 Wisconsin, Badgers with the ball on their own 48. 10:30 left in the game. Update: Five plays into the fourth quarter, Wisconsin leads. Troy Stoudermire picked up a ball that may have bounced out of bounds at the five, was hit at the eight and fumbled the ball, which was knocked around a couple times before going out the back of the end zone for a safety. Now the Badgers have the ball near midfield and lead 26-24. If icantbelievethatjusthappenedhowincrediblystupid ever makes it into the dictionary, the entry will be a description of this play. Update: Four plays into the fourth quarter, the game is tied. Wisconsin moved down the field in no time, and P.J. Hill added another 1-yard touchdown. It’s 24-24 now with 13:25 remaining in the game. Two quick things of note, however. 1) When the entire crowd jumps around to House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” the stadium actually shakes. It’s cool to see…and feel. 2) The first play of the fourth quarter was a 9-yard sack by Willie VanDeSteeg. The senior defensive end now has the school career record for tackles for loss with 43.5, surpassing John Schlecht’s record of 43. Update: My prediction was wrong, neither Lee Campbell nor Kyle Theret are back on defense for Minnesota, though Theret continues to try and walk off his limp on the sideline. End of the third quarter now, Wisconsin has the ball on its own 37, first and ten. Update: Nothing too exciting on the last drive, but Minnesota moved the ball at least moved the ball and Joel Monroe kicked a 30 yard field to put the game at 24-17 with a minute and a half left in the third. Update: The momentum has swung quickly in Madison. The Badgers orchestrated another scoring drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by P.J. Hill. Wisconsin ate up nearly five minutes of clock, marching 72 yards in 11 plays. Meanwhile, the Gophers have yet to gain a yard since halftime. Kyle Theret looks restless on the sideline; he was on the stationary bike a minute ago and is now pacing back and forth. Lee Campbell hasn’t returned to the field either but I predict they’ll be back for the Badgers’ next drive. It’s 21-17 (Minnesota still) with three minutes left in the third. Update: A big sack by linebacker Deon Hightower, only the second of his career, knocked Wisconsin back to Minnesota’s 30 after a long drive, forcing the Badgers to kick a field goal. Bad news for the Gophers, though. They lost safety Kyle Theret and linebacker Lee Campbell on the drive. Both men came hobbling off the field under their own power but neither returned on the drive. I’ll keep you updated on their status (or if they return) when I know more. 21-10 Minnesota now. Halftime: A real man can admit when he’s wrong. So let me be the first to admit that I did not see this coming. After the first quarter, it looked like we were in for another week of sputtering offense; the Gophers did everything in the second to prove that wouldn’t be the case. I think the turning point was the fumble forced by the defense on the first play of the second quarter. The offense only had to go 11 yards, but even this seemed a tall task. When Adam Weber found Brandon Green for a touchdown on third down from the four, however, the confidence seemed to return to the offense and the floodgates opened. The next two drives ended in touchdowns as well, Weber and the offense seem to have their swagger back, and Minnesota is rolling. The true freshmen receivers are playing lights out. Green and fellow freshman Smith have 48 and 45 yards, respectively, and each have a touchdown catch. If Weber hadn’t slightly under-thrown Green on an option pass that went for 37 yards, Green would have another touchdown too. I can’t see Brewster saying anything in the locker room besides “Let’s keep doing what we’re doing.” The defense has forced three big turnovers and Weber is back to his efficient self, with 7-of-9 passing for 116 yards and two touchdowns (thanks in large part to the offensive line, which is finally protecting him). The run game hasn’t been overwhelming, but it’s been good enough to force Wisconsin to keep defenders in the box. Second half is starting now, let’s see what it brings. Update: Bit of a sobering moment here at Camp Randall. The Gophers forced another fumble and Kyle Theret recovered again, but Kyle Jefferson, the Wisconsin receiver who lost the football, is currently being put on a stretcher and taken from the field. It’s difficult to say exactly how or the type of injury he suffered. Jefferson appeared to get the brunt of a shoulder-to-helmet hit from Simoni Lawrence, leading me to believe the injury is head/neck related. His neck was put in a brace on the stretcher, let’s pray it’s only a precautionary measure. The fans went essentially silent during the injury timeout and gave him a nice ovation as he left the field. The half is winding down now, Minnesota is at its own 37, first and ten, still 21-7 Gophers. Update: The big plays just keep coming…for both teams.. What looked to be a big gain for P.J. Hill of the Badgers turned into Gophers ball when Tramaine Brock popped the ball out and Kyle Theret jumped on it. But the Gophers went three and out and David Gilreath returned Justin Kucek’s punt 44 yards. to the Minnesota 43. Wisconsin has the ball with 3:25 left in the second, the score is still 21-7. Update: A little confidence goes a long, long way. A 31-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels set up Minnesota at Wisconsin’s 39 yard line. On the first play, Adam Weber broke right for a speed option, then dropped back to pass. Brandon Green broke wide open over the top and Weber hit him easily. The pass was slightly under-thrown and Green didn’t manage to get to the end zone, but after a fumbled snap (which he recovered), Weber kept it for a 6-yard TD run. 21-7 Minnesota with 7:50 remaining in the half. Update: The true freshman receivers are making themselves known today. First Green, now Brodrick Smith. Starting in his first career game, Smith snagged a 43-yard touchdown pass from Adam Weber. He had nobody within 15 yards of him when he caught the ball around the 20, then scampered easily to the end zone. It’s now 14-7 Gophers with 11:00 left in the second quarter. Update: First play of the second quarter, Wisconsin running back John Clay ran into his offensive line, coughed up the ball, and Minnesota’s Garrett Brown recovered the fumble on the 22-yard line. A late hit penalty on the Badgers moved the ball to the 11, and on third down at the four, Adam Weber found Brandon Green in the end zone for six. It’s 7-7 with 13:30 left in the half. End of first quarter: After the Minnesota fumble and ensuing Wisconsin touchdown, there was really nothing doing for the rest of the quarter. The Badgers put together a solid drive, but a 33-yard field goal attempted lacked a hold and was kicked directly into the back of the Wisconsin line. The Gophers’ offense doesn’t appear to have figured anything out. It gained one first down late in the quarter but has put up only 34 yards, most of them on the ground. Update: Not a good start for the Gophers. On their second play from scrimmage, Weber and Eskridge botched the hand off and Wisconsin recovered the ball on Minnesota’s 10-yard line. The Badgers moved the ball to the two in three plays, then went for it on fourth down. Dustin Sherer rolled right, then threw across his body to a wide open Garrett Graham in the back of the end zone. Now the teams have exchanged three-and-outs, Minnesota is about to get the ball back. It’s 7-0 Wisconsin with 9:50 left in the first.

Pregame

Let’s start with this: anyone who’s not counting down the days until the first game in TCF Bank Stadium should spend a Saturday in Madison when the Badgers are playing at Camp Randall.  If that doesn’t get you excited to have Minnesota football back on campus, nothing will.  For those of you who aren’t aware (which is probably all of you), I grew up just outside of Milwaukee.  Naturally, I have quite a few high school friends that attend UW-Madison.  So instead of staying in a hotel, fellow football beat writer Trevor Born and I decided to shack up with one of my good friends, and it just so happens that he lives directly across the street from Camp Randall.  Now, I realize there won’t be houses that close to TCF Bank Stadium next year, but the vibe of an on-campus stadium is second to none.  Students walking in droves to the game instead of bussing.  The marching band’s drumline playing in the street outside of student’s houses.  Everyone is outside, mixing it up, drinking…um…kool-aid…suffice it to say it’s an atmosphere that will bring a new level of excitement to Gophers football next year.

Side note: as Minnesota was going through its warmups a few minutes ago, I noticed something a bit out of place.  The receivers were running go routes down the hash marks and the sideline catching bloop passes when suddenly I see a man without a uniform, dressed in maroon from head to toe, going out for a pass.  The ball down the sideline was slightly overthrown, but he made a nice over the shoulder grab.  Give him a uniform, I thought.  Then I realized that might be an issue; it was Gophers head coach Tim Brewster channeling his former tight end self and snagging a few catches.  I will say this: the man can still move.

Ok, down to business.  Here’s what to watch for in today’s fight for Paul Bunyan’s Axe:

-The "No Decker" effect: As if this hasn’t been talked about enough, Minnesota will be without wide receiver Eric Decker this week.  This means guys like Brandon Green, Da’Jon McKnight and Brodrick Smith will be asked to help pick up the slack.  What do those three have in common?  They’re all true freshman.  Pretty big shoes to fill and a pretty big stage to fill them on.  Sophomore Ralph Spry, back from a three game suspension, and junior Ben Kuznia will be the only experienced receivers for the Gophers; they’ll need to play and act like veterans if Minnesota’s passing game is to go anywhere.

-How to play against a team you reallllllllllllllly don’t like:  The mutual disdain each of these teams have for each other is well documented.  A lot has been made of an apparent mutual disdain between Brewster and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, too.  Emotions will surely run high, and I think the team that controls its emotions better will have a significant advantage.  Passion is always a good thing, but too much excitement can lead to foolish penalties and derail a team’s progress.  If the Gophers can play passionate yet mature football, they’ll be in good shape.

-Balance, balance, balance: Brewster talks about it all the time, but recently, Minnesota has struggled to be a balanced offensive football team.  A running attack has been virtually non-existent for the past two weeks, forcing the Gophers to rely more heavily on quarterback Adam Weber’s arm more than they’d like.  But thanks to a porous offensive line, Weber has had little time to throw the ball.  Minnesota needs to make Wisconsin respect the run so Weber can find an open receiver.

Alright, that’s all I have for now.  Check back throughout the game for thoughts and updates.