Defense slows unstoppable Wisconsin ‘Dayne Train’

R. Martin

Coaches know the old axiom is true: You can’t stop Ron Dayne; you can only hope to contain him.
And that’s exactly what the Minnesota defense did, despite losing the game to an overtime field goal, 20-17.
Dayne’s numbers coming into Saturday were substantial. He rushed for 133 yards against the Gophers in ’98, 183 in ’97 and 297 in ’96.
But Saturday, Dayne was held to a paltry 80 yards on 25 attempts. His lack of yardage was partially because of a sore shoulder that sidelined him for much of the second quarter.
But the Gophers defense should take most of the credit.
“They have a nice defensive scheme,” Dayne said. “I expected it to be tough to run against them because of the defense they play. We usually have a grind-it-out kind of game against Minnesota.”
And a grind-it-out kind of game it was, until the dismal overtime. Gophers running back Thomas Hamner had 236 all-purpose yards against Wisconsin.
Dayne, a Heisman Trophy candidate, carried the ball 11 times in the first half for a total of 45 yards and one touchdown. The lone score came on a three-yard end zone push.
Most of those yards were in the first quarter, when Dayne was feeling well.
He returned after halftime with limited success. Dayne had 14 attempts for a second-half total of 35 yards. He averaged only 3.2 yards per carry in the entire game, his lowest ever against Minnesota.
In his freshman year, Dayne rolled up a 5.3 yards per carry average.
While Dayne outweighed some of the Gophers linebackers, it was the Badgers offensive line that had a clear advantage coming into the game. The Minnesota defensive line weighs, on average, about 30 pounds less than their Badgers counterparts.
Despite that advantage, John Palermo — the Badgers coach while Barry Alvarez is at the Mayo Hospital in Rochester for knee-replacement surgery — expected a powerful defensive show from the Gophers.
“We knew coming in that they had an outstanding defense,” Palermo said. “They’ve gotten better and better every year. They were very prepared; my hat’s off to Minnesota.”
Dayne said he doesn’t expect the injury to affect his play when the Badgers take on Indiana next week.