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Wisconsin Runs Over Gophers to Keep The Axe, 31-21

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Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers extended their 11-game win streak over Minnesota to 12 with a dominating rushing performance.  Former walk-on cornerback turned running back, Dare Ogunbowale rushed for a career high 155 yards and the Badgers offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage en route to a 31-21 win.  With the loss, Minnesota finishes 5-7 and comes up short of regaining The Axe and becoming bowl eligible.

Things began well for the Gophers as Wisconsin's quarterback, Joel Stave threw a bubble pass on the Badger's first play of the game that was perfectly read by Briean Boddy-Calhoun, intercepted and returned 16 yards for a Gopher touchdown. On their next drive the Badgers decided to keep it on the ground and for the most part the Gopher defense was incapable of slowing them the rest of the first half.

Following the Gopher pick-6, the Badgers scored touchdowns on four of their next five possessions.  They piled up 239 yards and 28 points taking a 28-14 lead into half. Minnesota offense sprang to life for one drive in second quarter.  Seven plays, 71 yards capped by a Rodney Smith run from six yards out.  The stats at the break were not pretty.  15 Badger first downs to 5 for the Gophers.  Ogunbowale had 132 yards rushing, the team...199 and Minnesota had 42.  Wisconsin was 6/7 on third down while the Gophers were 0-3.  A drive or two was stalled by a Gopher fumble, leaving a shorter field for Wisconsin.  But the result was a 28-14 Badger lead at half with possession to start the third quarter.

Second half was closer and the Gopher defense made adjustments to slow the Badger ground game. But the offense continued to struggle.  Once again, it was one nice drive to generate a little excitement.  Seven players and 72 yards that resulted in a Drew Wolitarsky 27-yard catch and run.  Wisconsin only managed a field goal for the half but they did enough damage in the first half to hold on for the 31-21 win.

This game came down to the trenches.  Niether quarterback was very sharp Wisconsin's offensive line was in complete control and particularly with the Gophers missing defensive tackles and having to play walk-on Justin Carr.  A 5.7 yard per rush average in the first half was hard to watch.  On the other side, holes closed quickly for Gopher running backs and the Gopher offensive line struggled to get much push all throughout the game and finished with just 53 total yards rushing. The result of that was not only a deficit in points but Wisconsin doubled Minnesota in time of possession 40 and a half minutes to 19 and a half.

In spite of the Badger statistical domination, it was really just two costly fumbles in the second quarter that really hurt the Gophers and allowed Wisconsin to open up a 2 touchdown lead.  Tracy Claeys on the team's effort.

"We got it back to 14-14 and then the two turnovers  We struggled on defense controlling the line of scrimmage.  WE didn't quit.  We came out at halftime and said we are better than this.  I thought defensively in the second half we gave ourselves a chance.  Just didn't make enough plays at the end."

The seniors played their final game today as the team finished a very disappointing 5-7, missing a bowl and they never once were able to carry The Axe into our locker room. We can recap the season at a later date and congratulate the seniors on their careers.  But today is a disappointing end to a season where what could have gone wrong, did.  No bowl game to look forward to and Gopher fans return to the offseason where the optimists among us will hope this was a step back in order to take two steps forward.  Chat amongst yourselves and be kind to each other.