No Axe for Minnesota

The Badgers defeated the Gophers 31-21 on Saturday, keeping Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the 12th consecutive year.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison football team celebrates, claiming Paul Bunyan's Axe for the twelfth consecutive year at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday where the Gophers fell to the Badgers 31-21.

Liam James Doyle

The University of Wisconsin-Madison football team celebrates, claiming Paul Bunyan's Axe for the twelfth consecutive year at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday where the Gophers fell to the Badgers 31-21.

Ryan Falk

For the 12th year in a row, the Gophers watched the Badgers grab Paul Bunyan’s Axe after defeating Minnesota 31-21 on Saturday.
 
The Gophers offense turned the ball over five times in the loss, while Wisconsin’s offense amassed 257 rushing yards and 28 first half points.
 
“They just ran the ball at us,” head coach Tracy Claeys said. “We were having trouble getting them down, so we made a couple adjustments, and we got a little bit more downhill.”
 
The Badgers scored four touchdowns on the ground in the first half, though the Gophers limited Wisconsin to only three points after halftime.
 
Minnesota’s offense could only gain 276 yards on the top scoring defense in the Big Ten, however, and its five turnovers led to 17 points for the Badgers.
 
Wisconsin used its running game to control the clock, holding the ball for more than 40 minutes. The Gophers also struggled to maintain possession of the ball, converting only three of their 12 third downs.
 
“Not being able to run the ball at times, and then sometimes getting caught in third-and-longer calls because we weren’t able to get some push on those first-, second-down run plays, I felt like made it a little bit more difficult for us on third down,” redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner said.
 
The Gophers took the first lead of the game, with redshirt senior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun intercepting Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave’s first pass and returning it for a touchdown.
 
The Badgers came back on their next drive by running through Minnesota’s defense, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Alec 
Ingold. 
 
The Badgers had 100 yards rushing in the first quarter and 199 yards at halftime.
 
Redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal scored the Badgers’ second touchdown on the first play of the second quarter to put Wisconsin up 14-7.
 
The Gophers drove down the field to tie the game with a rushing touchdown from redshirt freshman running back Rodney Smith and got the ball back after forcing a Wisconsin punt.
 
Minnesota turned the ball over on two straight possessions, however, and the Badgers scored two touchdowns off the turnovers to take a 28-14 lead going into halftime.
 
The Gophers had a turnover again on their first drive of the second half, with an interception leading to a Wisconsin field goal that made the score 31-14.
 
“It’s tough to tell exactly where [the Wisconsin defense] is coming from all the time,” Leidner said. “I thought overall the way we were protecting things was the right idea, but at times a guy would slip through here and there and immediately get in my face and cause me to make a throw maybe faster than I wanted to.”
 
The Gophers defense stiffened in the second half and didn’t allow any points after the field goal, but the offense wasn’t able to score enough points to come back.
 
“I told [the defense] they’re a hell of a lot better than how they were playing in the first half,” Claeys said. “We got the momentum and got them stopped, and then all of the sudden we had those two turnovers and couldn’t get them stopped on those two drives.”
 
Leidner threw his second interception looking for senior wide receiver KJ Maye in the fourth quarter.
 
He was able to throw a 27-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky to pull the Gophers within 10 points but threw his third interception with 25 seconds left to end the game.