Gophers aim to keep grip on ax and keep rival Badgers home

Brian Hall

They are two of the most celebrated rival trophies in all of college football and Minnesota must do battle for them in back-to-back weekends every fall.

The Gophers will fight Iowa for Floyd of Rosedale and Wisconsin for Paul Bunyan’s Ax in the final two games of their schedule for the next three years, a trend coach Glen Mason feels is an injustice.

“I’ve been arguing that since day one,” Mason said. “I don’t know who else does this. It would be like Michigan playing Michigan State and Ohio State back-to-back. Do you think that would happen?”

Minnesota concludes its 2002 back-to-back border battle at Wisconsin on Saturday, hoping to keep hold of at least one of this year’s trophies.

The Gophers were shellacked by Iowa last weekend 45-21, losing Floyd of Rosedale for one more season. Meanwhile, Minnesota currently has a grasp on Saturday’s hardware, the ax, due to a 42-31 win over the Badgers last season.

Despite Mason’s feelings on the subject, his players relish the opportunity.

“I think it’s great,” senior Mike Lehan said. “It’s a long, tedious season and you need something to get your blood pumping a bit; that’s what rivalries do for you.”

This rivalry weekend includes an extra bonus. With one game remaining, Wisconsin is still one win short of bowl eligibility. Minnesota would love to keep the Badgers home for the holidays.

“We know with a win we would keep the ax, a trophy that is not usually here,” sophomore Terry Jackson II said. “But, what better team to keep out of a bowl game than your border-state rivals in the conference.”

Pruitt suspended

mason said Tuesday that freshman running back Greg Pruitt Jr. has been suspended from the team for academic reasons. When asked if Pruitt would be reinstated, Mason would only say Pruitt is still in school.

Pruitt has not played this season. He was a highly-recruited high school All-American from Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Playoffs?

proponents for a Big Ten championship game have almost received their wish. For the fourth time in seven seasons, at least two teams could finish with an identical conference record and share the Big Ten title.

After defeating Minnesota last weekend, Iowa finished with a perfect 8-0 mark and at least one share of the conference championship. Meanwhile, with a win against Michigan on Saturday, Ohio State and its unblemished Big Ten record can force the Hawkeyes to share the league crown.

This particular incident has people calling for an Iowa-Ohio State contest. The two teams did not face each other this season because of the conference’s rotating schedule.

With 11 teams in the Big Ten, each conference team does not play two Big Ten opponents in any given year.

Leading Larry

it has been a storybook season for Penn State running back Larry Johnson and he might have written his greatest chapter last weekend.

The senior ran for 327 yards, the second-best mark in Division I this season, while scoring a career-high four touchdowns.

The effort earned Johnson Big Ten offensive player of the week honors for the third time this season.

Johnson’s 327 yards also broke his own school record for a single game, a milestone he has now shattered three times this season. In the same game, he also set the Lions’ all-time single season rushing mark. He now has 1,736 yards rushing this season, giving him a legitimate shot at breaking the 2,000 yard barrier.

Johnson is the second leading rusher in the nation with 157.82 yards per game, and he is first in the country averaging 207.8 yards from scrimmage per game.