This game had the feel of a heavy-weight fight, one where the underdog put up a tough fight before being utterly pummeled in the later rounds. The underdog Gophers struck early, putting the home team on their heals. Through three quarters this game was in doubt and tension was high. But the Wisconsin Badgers dominated the 4th quarter, made a handful of huge plays on both sides of the ball to come back and win by 14, keeping Paul Bunyan’s Axe...again.
Mitch Leidner was quite good in the first half, leading a confident and enthusiastic offense. The Gopher offense is the only team to score 17 points in a half on the Badgers all year. But the second half was an entirely different story. All areas of the offense struggled but it was the four interceptions by Leidner that ended all hope of a Gopher victory. Things got tense, Wisconsin was making their comeback and Leidner began forcing things on virtually every pass. His second half stats were 2/14 with 4 interceptions and
Early on Minnesota took hits and countered. The Gophers struck first with a field goal on their opening drive. Wisconsin eventually scored a touchdown on their third possession but the Gophers answered back with a long kick off return and a touchdown of their own and a 10-7 lead. They even tacked on another touchdown before half to hold a 10-point lead.
But Gopher fans also knew they couldn’t take a breath. And in the second half the Badgers dominated. In the 4th quarter only, the Gopher offense had 3 turnovers and negative 7 yards while being outscored 21-0.
Many saw this coming like a freight train. A Badger comeback was inevitable. Minnesota, particularly the embattled senior quarterback, had opportunities to change this narrative. But it wasn’t going to be today. The Big Ten West’s best team wasn’t going to let it happen and one self-inflicted wound was too many...we had several.
The Gophers will head back to Minnesota, waiting to see what comes next and what bowl game they’ll be invited to.