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Gophers, Badgers look to avoid postgame altercation

The two rival teams will play for Paul Bunyan’s Axe on Saturday.

As the Badgers sprinted toward TCF Bank Stadium’s east end zone wielding Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the Gophers crowded in front of their goalpost in force.

After winning the rivalry trophy, it has been tradition to pretend to chop down the opposing team’s goal post with the ax. But after they lost last season 20-7, the Gophers weren’t going to let it happen for a 10th consecutive time.

“I was ticked. That’s just the tradition, you know. I understand their part. I understand that. If I was them, I probably would have done the same thing, but I’m not them,” star Badgers running back Melvin Gordon said at Big Ten Media Days in July. “That’s just how it’s been done for however … many years.”

Each side yelled obscenities at the other for a few minutes before Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen pulled his team away.

Now, Andersen and Wisconsin’s administration are taking steps to ensure a fight doesn’t break out after the Gophers face the Badgers this Saturday.

Andersen said in a statement Monday that the ax will not be on the field during the game. Instead, the trophy will be placed in the end zone closest to the winning team’s locker room.

“It is important for us to maintain the traditions of our trophy games while also doing what we feel is in the best interests of the student-athletes,” Andersen said in the statement.

Gophers head coach Jerry Kill said he doesn’t know how the new policy came into effect, but he appears to be in favor of it.

“You don’t want to lose some player for the next week if he does something stupid,” Kill said. “I’ve worried more about our game. … We haven’t [defeated] them in what, 10 years? It’s supposed to be a rivalry. Sooner or later, you’ve got to win.”

Badgers offensive lineman Rob Havenstein was in the middle of last year’s postgame altercation and said in July there was a lot of tension on the field.

“We’re big, strong, testosterone-filled men,” he said. “We’re going to spit and drag our knuckles in the dirt every now and then when we have to.”

Saturday’s game will be the fifth time Minnesota has played Wisconsin during Donnell Kirkwood’s career.

The redshirt senior running back doesn’t seem to mind that the Gophers won’t be able to sprint across the field to grab, the ax from the Badgers sideline if they win and advance to the Big Ten championship game this season.

“I could care less where the ax is. I just want it,” Kirkwood said. “I don’t think we care where they put it. They can put it in the stands, and we’ll go get it.”

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