Border rivalry? Not so much for Gophers in recent years

The Gophers are trying to break a 14-game losing streak against the Badgers.

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor stiff arms Gophers defensive back Jacob Huff at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 25. The Badgers defeated the Gophers 31-0.

Max Ostenso

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor stiff arms Gophers defensive back Jacob Huff at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 25. The Badgers defeated the Gophers 31-0.

Paul Hodowanic

Saturday will mark the 128th meeting Minnesota between Wisconsin. It is the longest-running rivalry game in all of college football. 

However, for the past 25 years, it hasn’t felt much like a rivalry. In the last 25 games between the Gophers and the Badgers, the Gophers are 4-21. They haven’t beaten Wisconsin since 2003, a 14-game losing streak.

Head coach P.J. Fleck is well aware of the Gophers’ past struggles, but says he isn’t concerned about it. 

“We take one day at a time in our culture, we want to be better today than we were yesterday. We want to respond to whatever result we get in the right way. Just one game is not going to be able to turn everything,”  Fleck said. 

One game may not turn their culture around, but a win this year would mean an opportunity to continue their season and play in a bowl game, the first in Fleck’s tenure as head coach. 

While Fleck may be bullish about the implications of one game, the players voiced their desire to come away with a win. 

“It’s something we haven’t done here in a very long time … I can’t even remember the Gophers ever having [the axe], I was so young,” said linebacker Blake Cashman, a Minnesota native. “It would be a thrill to come back to campus and see all our fans and students very excited. That will be an experience and a moment that we will get to share with them.”

The Gophers will try to end the streak by the beating the Badgers in Madison this year, which hasn’t been done since 1994. The Gophers have struggled in away games this year with an 0-4 record. 

“We got to quit talking about how we are struggling on the road in the Big Ten. We have to stop talking about that … that’s my message all the time,” Fleck said. “It doesn’t matter if we play in a parking lot, grass field, field turf, Canada, here — it doesn’t matter. We [have] got to break the stereotypes and stigmas of what we can’t do, what we haven’t done; we are in the process of doing that.”

Wisconsin has struggled to meet their preseason championship expectations this season. The Badgers were ranked fifth in the country entering Week 1, but a series of underwhelming performances knocked them out of the national conversation and they currently sit at 7-4. 

In six of the past eight matchups between Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Badgers entered the game in the top-25 rankings and Wisconsin starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook has missed three of the last four games with an injury. 

Presumably, this gives Minnesota one of its best shots in recent memory to knock off the Badgers and reclaim ‘the axe’.

“We haven’t won this game for 15 years or whatever it is, that’s what we keep talking about, sooner or later a group is going to end that. We have to find a group that is ready to end that,” Fleck said.