BLOGS

Bunyan's Axe stays in Mad-town

Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon does the Heisman pose on Minnesota's Briean Boddy. PHOTO: Jeff Hanisch, USA TODAY

Gordon could be the Heisman favorite
after going for 151 against Gophers

By RICK SOLEM

MADISON, Wis. - The 125th meeting between the Wisconsin and Minnesota football teams went much like the way it has the last 11. 

This time, however, things looked dicey for the No. 14 Badgers for a short while, as they had to overcome an early deficit.

The Big Ten West title, however, went to Wisconsin, 34-24, behind 151 yards on 29 carries from Melvin Gordon.

At 7:15 p.m. this upcoming Saturday, the Badgers (10-2, 7-1) play Ohio St. (11-1, 8-0) in the Big Ten title game.

And while one Heisman Trophy candidate limped off the field favoring his ankle with 3:12 remaining in the game, only to come back for the Badgers’ kneel down while the crowd chanted “Mel-vin, Mel-vin,” another was taken off the field earlier in the day.

Buckeye’s Heisman hopeful, quarterback J.T. Barrett suffered a fractured ankle in its 42-28 win over Michigan, making the Big Ten title game a little less thrilling, but, perhaps, solidifying Gordon as the Heisman favorite.

Gordon passed former Badger, Ron Dayne, for the Big Ten single-season rushing record on the first carry of the game Saturday at Camp Randall. Now, at 2,260 yards, Gordon has a tough task ahead to upend Hall of Famer, Barry Sanders’ FBS single-season record of 2,628 yards (done in nine games for Oklahoma St.).

Retaining Paul Bunyan’s axe for the 11th year in a row, however, does give Gordon that extra game to break Sanders’ record. He now gets the Big Ten title game and then a bowl game. He needs 369 yards to overtake Sanders.

Wisconsin fell behind 17-3 with 10:48 remaining in the second quarter before coming alive. When Gordon caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Joel Stave pass with 4:39 remaining in the second, the run began. Wisconsin scored 24 unanswered.

Maybe it was Gordon’s touchdown or, perhaps Alex Erickson’s 70-yard grab just before, that woke up Wisconsin. The Badgers scored four times on their next six possessions – the last, the nail, when Stave hit Robert Wheelright for a 17-yard score and the final 10-point cushion.

Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon (25) chops at the goalpost with Paul Bunyan's Axe following the 34-24 win over Minnesota, PHOTO: David Stluka

Things started out well enough for Wisconsin, forcing Minnesota (8-4,5-3) to punt on its first possession. The Gophers, however, got the ball right back, as Wisconsin fumbled away the return. Minnesota capitalized with a Mitch Leidner 10-yard touchdown on a drive that started on Wisconsin’s 13.

The Badgers answered with a field goal on a 12-play drive,and stopped the Gophers on their next possession, but the offense was forced to punt after that.

Minnesota’s David Cobb, who finished with 125 yards, made them pay. On the ensuing possession, the 220-pound senior scored on a 40-yard touchdown. And, after another Badgers’ punt, Minnesota got a field goal, before Wisconsin said, ‘Enough is enough.’

The Badgers, which had 20 first downs to Minnesota’s 12, outgained the Gophers 233 to 177 on the ground and 448 to 272 in total yards.

Stave was effective and efficient, going 11 of 18 for 215 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions. He was sacked just once. Erickson finished with five grabs for 160 yards.