The last time the Gophers won Paul Bunyan’s Axe was 2003 and the last time they won a game in Madison was 1994. There have been games where Minnesota has led at halftime, there have been games where the game was seemingly in hand, but the Gophers have found a way to lose those games for 15 years.
But today was different. The Gophers executed throughout and made fewer mistakes than Wisconsin to clinch the biggest win for Minnesota in a very long time.
Leading 23-7 at the start of the 4th quarter, with the ball, but Gopher fans knew that a lot can happen in the 4th quarter and this was a long way from being over. What did this PJ Fleck led team do? They marched down the field with a 14 play drive that ate up over 9 minutes of clock and ended with an Emmit Carpenter missed field goal. Yes...a missed field goal. Gopher Nation with a collective “here we go again” thought.
But on the Badgers second play of their key possession, Carter Coughlin strips the ball from Hornibrook, Thomas Barber recovers. And on first down Bryce Williams goes 23 yards untouched to effectively seal the game.
This was a game where Minnesota was in control throughout. At every turn when it felt like momentum was about turn, they converted a huge third down or made a key stop to regain control. Wisconsin’s one flawless drive came at the end of the second quarter when they marched 76 yards in 59 seconds to make it a 17-7 game at the half.
But the Gopher defense turned over Wisconsin on downs to start the 3rd quarter and the Gopher offense moved the ball into two easy field goals for Emmit Carpenter. With the lead extended, Wisconsin was forced to press and the Gopher defense capitalized with 3 turnovers in the second half.
Turnovers have killed the Gophers all year. But today the defense forced 4 turnovers while the offense gave away none. Winning the turnover battle and a special teams touchdown by Demetrius Douglas were critical to today’s win.
Mohamed Ibrahim ran today like he was an upperclassman who was tired of losing to the Badgers over his career. But the freshman was breaking tackles, carrying defenders and refused to go down as he ran for 121 yards and a touchdown. Then in the 4th quarter it was the Bryce Williams show as this freshman finished with 50 yards rushing and 2 forth quarter touchdowns.
Defensively the Gophers came into the game with 3 seniors starting. Blake Cashman, arguably the team’s best defensive player, was ejected early in the 2nd quarter. Jacob Huff was injured in the 3rd quarter. And the unit finished the game with Gary Moore as the team’s only senior starter, with Julian Huff playing for the injured Cashman.
But this unit was great throughout giving up just 2 touchdown drives, one of them being completely meaningless.
A fantastic win for the Gopher program who brings home a rivalry trophy and earns themselves a bowl game.