Minnesota and Wisconsin were fighting for more than just bragging rights and a home for Paul Bunyan’s axe for the next year. Camp Randall Stadium played host to the B1G matchup for the West division crown, the winner going on to face Ohio State at Lucas Oil Stadium next weekend.
Watching the first half, it seemed as though Wisconsin decided not to show up. The Golden Gophers started off the first half with 14 points, holding the Badgers to just a field goal. Then, in the second Minnesota had itself a 14 point lead over Wisconsin, who just could not get into a rhythm early on.
The opening jitters shook off, and the Badgers soon responded with a touchdown and field goal to close out the half, with just a four point deficit to overcome. The third quarter was vacant of points scored by Minnesota as the Wisconsin defensive line stood tall throughout. The Badgers put another touchdown on the board to make the score 20-17, in their favor.
In the closing quarter, Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon ran for a touchdown to give the Badgers a 10 point advantage. Minnesota tried to rally some offensive might, but were held to a field goal. Wisconsin managed another touchdown and employed their defense to keep the 10 point lead, landing the score at 34-24.
Wisconsin, currently No. 14, faced a fairly physical team in No. 22 Minnesota; the synchronicity of Wisconsin’s offense saved them.
Gordon ran for 151 yards on 29 carries and was responsible for two scores. But, Gordon wasn’t the only workhorse for the Badgers. Quarterback Joel Stave threw for 215 yards and two touchdown passes; Alex Erickson got 160 yards on five catches, a career high for the sophomore wide receiver.
Those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg for Wisconsin on offense. They really showed up to play – albeit tardy, and made it worth the wait.
Saturday’s contest may very well be the last for the likes of Melvin Gordon, not only a Heisman contender but a promising NFL talent. The junior running back limped off the field with just under five minutes of game play left due to a sustained ankle injury.
The Golden Gophers fought hard this season, and ended up with a strong record. Though they would have no doubt wanted to finish the season 6-2, a first since 1973, they still have much to be cheerful about. In the beginning of the season, no one was fearful of the Golden Gophers, but after their matchup against Wisconsin, I have a feeling that is all about to change. Next season they should be reenergized and a force to be reckoned with in the B1G.
Wisconsin’s victory secured them the B1G West division title, meaning they will square off against Ohio State on December 6 for the conference championships.
*Section Photo credit to Hannah Foslien, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Mary Langenfeld, USA Today Sports