Wisconsin Badgers Retain Paul Bunyan's Axe; Defeat Rival Minnesota

The Wisconsin Badgers traveled to the Twin Cities to face their rival the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, which the Badgers have held for 11 years.

The Badgers started the game with the ball, but turned it over immediately when quarterback Joel Stave threw an interception to Briean Broody-Calhoun, who returned it for a short touchdown that, when the extra point was kicked, put the Gophers up 7-0. The Badgers wasted no time on their next drive, as they went 67 yards in 10 plays that ended with an Alec Ingold one-yard touchdown rush to tie the game at seven. 

The score was still tied at seven when the first quarter came to an end, but the Badgers had the ball deep in Minnesota territory. The Badgers scored on the first play of the second quarter after a Taiwan Deal one yard touchdown rush. Rafael Gaglione then converted the extra point, and the Badgers held a 14-7 lead over the Gophers.

The Gophers finally got a drive going, and ended it with a short rushing touchdown from Rodney Smith. After the extra point, the game was once again tied, this time at 14. The Badgers first punted the ball, then recovered a Mitch Leidner fumble, which led to Deal scoring his second touchdown of the game on a short run to put the Badgers up 21-14 over Minnesota.

The Gophers had another drive going, but lost the ball on another Gopher fumble, this one from K.J. Maye, which was recovered by the Badgers. That led to another Badger rushing touchdown, this one from Dare Ogunbowale. Once the extra point was kicked, the Badgers were up by two touchdowns, with just over two and a half minutes left in the first half.

The Gophers were unable to score before halftime, and went into the locker room down by 14 points.  

The second half started terribly for the Gophers, as their first possession ended with a Wisconsin interception that was initially returned for a touchdown, but that part of the play was overturned after Wisconsin defensive back Jack Cichy was ejected from the game after being called for targeting.

The Badgers took the ball and began marching down the field, but the drive stalled in Gopher territory, which led to Gaglione kicking a 46-yard field goal. Gaglione then had another chance a little bit later to kick another one, and he made the first attempt, but that was called back after Wisconsin was called for a hold. On the second attempt, the kick was no good, which gave the Gophers the ball in their own territory. Their drive stalled at their own 40 yard line following a delay of game penalty, so the Gophers punted.

The Gophers scored a touchdown with 5:33 left in the game when Leidner completed a pass to Drew Wolitarsky, who ran it for a 27-yard touchdown. After the extra point, the Gophers had trimmed the Badgers lead to just 10. After the Badgers punted, the Gophers had a drive going, but failed to score and ended up turning the ball back to the Badgers, who ran some time off the clock and punted the ball back to the Gophers with just over a minute left.

The Gophers started the drive inside their own 10 yard line, needing two scores to tie the game. They were unable to complete any plays, as the only yards that they got was on a Wisconsin pass interference, and the Badgers escaped Minnesota with the Axe.

It is the 12th straight time that the Badgers have won the Axe, and they will wait for word on a potential bowl game. The Gophers, meanwhile, finish with just four wins, which will not be enough to get them into a bowl game.

It was a great season for Minnesota with a lot of adversity, mainly in coach Jerry Kill retiring in the middle of the season.