Gophers fall in overtime matchup to Badgers

In a game of both teams throwing punches, it was Wisconsin who did just enough to secure the win and keep Paul Bunyan’s Axe in Madison.

Gophers+linebacker+Mariano+Sori-Marin+follows+the+ball+at+TCF+Bank+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+24.+Minnesota+fell+to+Michigan+49-24+in+their+first+showing+of+the+season.

Nur B. Adam

Gophers linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin follows the ball at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 24. Minnesota fell to Michigan 49-24 in their first showing of the season.

Brendan O'Brien, Sports Reporter

In a rivalry that has seen many different results – 129 to be exact – the 130th meeting between Minnesota and Wisconsin was everything fans could have hoped for on Saturday: Overtime.

But the Gophers came up just short and fell to the Badgers 20-17 after missing a field goal attempt on the first possession of overtime.

“It was a great football game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose that’s why it’s a rivalry game,” head coach P.J. Fleck said following the loss. “We were two touchdown underdogs and you would never believe that with these players. We had plenty of opportunities, though, and didn’t make them happen.”

“But it all comes down to that we got it to overtime. It was 17-17, they executed, we didn’t.”

In an age of high-powered offenses throughout the college football landscape, the match-up between the Gophers and Badgers was reminiscent of an old school style of play emphasizing the importance of field position and defensive stops.

Wisconsin had a chance to steal momentum early after recovering what appeared to be a fumble by Tanner Morgan. But to the surprise of the Badgers and possibly everyone watching at home, the call was overturned to an incomplete pass leading to a significant change in field position.

The following time out on the field, the Gophers struck first with a touchdown pass from Morgan to Cam Wiley set up by a 27-yard rush from Mohamed Ibrahim. Ibrahim, the Big Ten Running Back of the Year, finished with 151 rushing yards, good for a school record of eight consecutive games of rushing for at least 100 yards.

Minnesota had an opportunity to take a 14-7 lead but failed after a holding call negated an Ibrahim touchdown run near the goal line. The following play, Badgers defensive back Eric Burrell intercepted an errant pass from Morgan, keeping the Gophers out of the endzone.

Minnesota’s defense, a unit that had struggled all season in stopping the run and giving up big plays, was ready for Wisconsin’s attack throughout the first half. Led by plays from James Gordon IV and others up front, the Gophers held Wisconsin to 156 total yards resulting in only one score in the first half. The only explosive play the unit gave up in the half was a 39-yard touchdown scamper up the middle by Garrett Groshek.

Both teams traded punches coming out of the locker room. After looking stagnant on offense, the Badgers orchestrated a nine-play drive to the endzone and took their first lead of the game. Soon to follow was a forced three-and-out by its defense and a Wisconsin field goal to take a 17-10 lead.

Morgan, Ibrahim and the Gophers responded, however, with their own methodical drive ending in a touchdown reception by Mike Brown-Stevens to tie the game at 17. Defensive back Coney Durr came up with an interception giving Minnesota’s offense one more opportunity to score before the end of regulation.

The final dagger came in overtime as a near interception by Morgan forced the Gophers to attempt a field goal that was barely wide of the goal posts. Wisconsin leaned on Groshek and was able to end the game with a field goal of its own.

With the loss, Minnesota finishes the season at 3-4, after failing to play two games due to COVID-19. The Gophers most likely will fail to make a bowl game with a losing record, which will be determined on Sunday. Several universities have already opted out of playing a bowl game. Fleck said Minnesota has not made a decision yet about participating in it, and said the team would make “the best decision as a football team based on many factors.”