The Wisconsin Badgers capitalized on five Minnesota turnovers on their way to a 31-21 win at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis to wrap up the regular season in the Big Ten. It was the twelfth consecutive win by Bucky over the Golden Gophers and they maintain possession of Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the longest streak in the college football rivalry’s history.
The Badgers improve their record to 9-3 and are poised to earn a New Year’s Day Bowl bid. Minnesota dips to 5-7. It is a longshot, but the Gophers could still earn an extra game. Normally teams need six wins to be bowl-eligible, but five wins might sneak in a powerful conference such as the Big Ten.
The Badgers did it the old-fashioned way…by running the football. Bucky has long been considered one of the best rushing programs in all of college football, sending a host of offensive linemen to the NFL in the process. That aspect has been conspicuous by its absence.
Dare Ogunbowale led the way with 33 carries for 155 yards and a touchdown. Taiwan Deal toted the leather 22 times for another 90 yards, scoring twice in the contest. Corey Clement, whose season was a washout with a sports hernia injury, got arrested in a much-talked about skirmish and did not make the trip.
The Badgers sorely needed to make some noise on the ground. Fifth-year senior starter Joel Stave managed only 79 yards passing on nine completions. Stave does, by virtue of the win, tie for first place in victories all time by a Wisconsin quarterback. Brooks Bollinger also won 30 games sporting the Red & White. A bowl win would make Stave numero uno in that department.
The early momentum was clearly in the corner of the home team. Briean Boddy-Calhoun intercepted Stave for a quick16-yard ‘Pick 6’ just 1:28 into the fray. That gave the Gophers a 7-0 lead. But Bucky answered that bell and stayed with the ground game to tie it at 7-7 at the 8:40 mark. Alec Ingold took it the final yard for that score.
A couple of Minnesota fumbles and an interception all led to Badger scores and the half ended, 28-14, with Wisconsin in complete command. Rafael Gaglianone hit a 46-yard field goal which were the only points in the third quarter and Leidner’s 27-yard TD pass to Drew Wolitarsky with 5:40 to play closed out the scoring.
Now the Badgers wait until the various Bowl Committees meet to determine when and where Wisconsin will finish out head coach Paul Chryst’s first year. All in all, not a bad showing for Chryst in his inaugural season at the helm. The injuries to Clement and members of the offensive line made it even tougher than it might have been.