Losing ways wear on Gophers in rivalry

Northwestern defensive back Daniel Jones tackles Minnesota wide receiver A.J. Barker on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Anthony Kwan, Daily File Photo

Northwestern defensive back Daniel Jones tackles Minnesota wide receiver A.J. Barker on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Dane Mizutani

They say it’s a rivalry, but really it’s not.

The Gophers haven’t beaten Wisconsin since 2003 — before Facebook or Twitter existed. Their last road win in this series came before the Internet was mainstream — in 1994.

“In a rivalry game, if you don’t ever win it’s not really a rivalry,” senior linebacker Mike Rallis said.

Rallis and his fellow seniors have never swung Paul Bunyan’s Axe — the annual trophy awarded to the winner of the matchup between Minnesota and

It’s the longest-running rivalry in college football, dating back to 1890, and nearly everyone on the team is familiar with it.

A.J. Barker, who leads the Gophers in receiving this season, said the rivalry has always been around him. Barker grew up in Minnesota, but his father is from the Madison, Wis., area, and his brother goes to school in Wisconsin.

He said this is the most passionate rivalry to him, and he hopes his family cheers for the Gophers this weekend.

“It loses its spark when you don’t have both teams winning, and that’s on us,” Barker said. “We’ve got to be competitive out here and we’ve got to put up a fight because they’ve been dominating us as of late. That’s just the reality of it.”

Minnesota junior safety Brock Vereen grew up in California, but even he’s invested in the rivalry.

“It’s very frustrating, but that frustration turns into motivation,” Vereen said. “We love proving people wrong. Our motto for the year is ‘underdog,’ and that’s definitely the case this week.”

Wisconsin stumbled out of the gates this season but has since righted the ship. They’re not the same team that pounded the Gophers 42-13 last season at TCF Bank Stadium, but they’ve won back-to-back games, including last week’s 38-14 win at Purdue.

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill said his team knows the Badgers are going to run the ball, and Minnesota has to be ready in order to take the next step in the rebuilding process.

“We’re a little bit frustrated because we just can’t make a play or two,” Kill said. “We can’t do the fundamental things that you’d like to do to take that next step.”

A win this week would be a giant leap for this team and the program.

 “It’s axe week, so it’s just a little extra excitement,” Rallis said. “This is why you sign on the dotted line to put on the maroon and gold.”


—MarQueis Gray was listed as questionable on the injury report this week, but he practiced this week and could see action against

—Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill hasn’t won a conference road game with the Gophers. The Gophers’ last conference road win was at Illinois in 2010.

—The Gophers actually lead the all-time series with Wisconsin with a record of 58-55-8.

—The Badgers have won 20 consecutive home games. That’s the second-longest active home-win streak behind Louisiana State, which has won 21 in a row.

—Wisconsin has defeated Minnesota eight straight times and can match the longest winning streak by either team in the series with a win Saturday.