Wisconsin beats Minnesota for 10th straight time

Notre Dame, Wisconsin to meet at Lambeau, Soldier fields


It was closer this time. Tougher. For the first time in a long time, there was suspense, at least for a while.

But in the end, the story remained the same.

In one of the oldest rivalries in college football, the Wisconsin defense was better and the Badgers offense was just good enough in a 20-7 victory on Saturday in TCF Bank Stadium.

For the No. 19 Badgers (9-2 overall, 6-1 Big Ten), it was their sixth straight victory overall and their 10th straight against No. 25 Minnesota (8-3, 4-3), meaning the Paul Bunyan Axe will stay in Madison for another year.

The loss ended Minnesota’s four-game conference winning streak.

“That’s two very good football teams playing against each other,” Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. “Minnesota is very deserving of walking in here 8-2.”

Defensive battle? The Gophers became just the second team to hold Wisconsin below 200 rushing yards this season (197) and held Wisconsin to 324 yards, nearly 200 below its average.

But the Wisconsin defense was better, holding Minnesota’s offense scoreless, sacking quarterback Philip Nelson three times, forcing and recovering three fumbles, including one that led to a second-quarter touchdown that gave Wisconsin the lead for good.

Down 7-3 after Minnesota linebacker Aaron Hill’s 39-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the second quarter, the Badgers scored the game’s final 17 points, led by quarterback Joel Stave (16-of-26 passing, 127 yards and a touchdown) and running back James White (26 carries, 130 yards).

After the game, the Badgers tried to mimic chopping down the goal post in the end zone near the Gophers’ locker room, prompting some pushing and shoving.

But it was the Badgers who had the last laugh for the 10th straight time.

“Ten is a solid number,” said Badgers linebacker Chris Borland, who had 12 tackles and two fumble recoveries. “We were very proud of it. I think they were moving the ball early on. But we responded well and adjusted to that.”

Indeed, the Badgers had a brief lead after Hill’s touchdown.

“When he made that play, I felt like it was time to change the course of Wisconsin and Minnesota,” Gophers defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman said.

But it wasn’t to be. The Badgers hit another gear, turning Nelson’s fumble into a five-play, 49-yard drive ended by White’s 1-yard TD run with 2:24 left in the half.

Nelson’s intentional grounding penalty forced a punt from the end zone, and the Badgers took over at the Minnesota 23 and moved to a first-and-goal at the 3 as the clocked ticked down. But again the Gophers held, with Cedrick Thompson tipping Stave’s pass to Derek Watt. Jack Russell’s second field goal of the day made it 13-7 at the half.

It didn’t take long to learn that Minnesota’s goal-line stand hadn’t changed the game’s momentum. The Badgers took the third-quarter kickoff and marched 83 yards in 12 plays — Stave was 6 of 6 on the drive — to go up 20-7 on his 2-yard pass to Jared Abbrederis. That ended the scoring but kept the Badgers’ streak intact.

“We played hard,” Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. “Sometimes it doesn’t come out the way you want it to. But I thought our guys played hard against a good football team. We had three turnovers. If you take those turnovers away, we might have a tie game.”

NOTES: The Gophers did not announce it during the week, but WR Derrick Engel suffered a torn ACL in a practice last Sunday, according to a published report. The injury almost certainly spells the end of his college career for the redshirt senior. … Caleb Bok sat missed his second game with a concussion after making 20 straight starts at right guard for Minnesota. Foster Bush started in his place. … Gophers QB Philip Nelson’s father played fullback for Wisconsin in the 1970s and Philip grew up in Madison a huge Badgers fan. … Wisconsin came into the game with a nine-game winning streak in this yearly battle for Paul Bunyan’s axe, the longest by either team in the most-played rivalry in the Football Bowl Subdivision. … This is the first time since 2003 that the Gophers have won at least eight games in a season. … Saturday’s game marked the fourth-coldest game ever between the two teams. The temperature at TCF Bank Stadium at kickoff was 18 degrees. The three coldest games were played in the 1950s. Minnesota played indoors at the Metrodome for 28 years. … Wisconsin freshman Dan Voltz got his third straight start at center in place of Dallas Lewallen, who has a knee injury. … Saturday’s game was just the second sold-out Minnesota home game this season. The other came against Nebraska.