MINNEAPOLIS - The Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe has always been a chippy game, with tensions high on both sides. Saturday night's game in Minneapolis was no different, as the No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers ground their way to a 20-7 win over the No. 25 Minnesota Golden Gophers.
It was the tenth-straight win for the Badgers over the Gophers, who last won Paul Bunyan's Axe in 2003 on a game-winning field goal when the Gophers still played across the river in the Metrodome. And after the Badgers ran out the clock and sprinted to their sideline to celebrate with the Axe, tempers flared again when the UW players ran to the goal post in front of Minnesota's student section to "chop" it down.
Several Minnesota players were still on the field near the endzone, and didn't let the Badgers surround the goalpost. Words were exchanged between the two sides, and Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen attempted to intervene before being stopped by a police officer.
"That's the first time I've been around that. I don't think you deserve to get pushed out of the way. It's not right," Andersen said. "The kids in my opinion were not out of control. We don't want to get into those situations, but you're supposed to carry yourself like an adult in those scenarios and I don't want somebody pointing a finger in my face when it's supposedly their job to protect the kids and be the security for the stadium."
Other UW players said they could understand why the Gophers didn't want to let the Badgers "chop" down one of their goal posts, with Gopher quarterback Philip Nelson saying "it's a pride thing" when asked why he and his teammates stood near the goal post to prevent the Badgers from celebrating near it.
"We were trying to wait for them to leave because they were singing their school song and stuff," Beau Allen said after the game. "We went to go chop it down but never got it done. It's understandable. It's an emotional game. We're at their home turf wanting to chop down their goal posts, I'm sure we'd feel the same way."
But with the Axe heading back to Madison for the tenth-straight season, the Badgers won't have to worry about what it feels like to lose Paul Bunyan's Axe for at least another season.
News and notes:
-- The Badgers have stressed causing turnovers since the start of the season, with defensive coordinator Dave Aranda saying that he'd like the team to force at least three turnovers per game. The Badgers accomplished that feat for the first time this season on Saturday night, recovering three forced fumbles by the Gophers in the game.
-- The Badgers ran a much-criticized fake field goal in the fourth quarter against the Gophers, with punter Drew Meyer throwing a backwards pass to Sam Arneson, who was supposed to find another open receiver down field after the first pass. Meyer said the Badgers have run that play in practice before, but Andersen said he and the coaches might scratch that play moving forward, since Arneson couldn't get the second pass off and Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman dropped Arneson for a seven-yard loss.
-- Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave had a rough first half against the Gophers, completing just 6-of-14 passes for 44 yards, with an interception that was returned for Minnesota's only touchdown of the game. But Stave came out on Wisconsin's opening drive of the second half by completing 6-of-6 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown, and Andersen said he was glad to see his quarterback respond so well in the second half.
"It was good to see Joel be able to get that done," Andersen said after the game. "I can't say I was surprised- you make adjustments at halftime to try to take advantage of them … Joel bounces back and seems to bounce back when he's made a mistake and he got smacked around a good couple times today and kept getting back up and making some plays."
Stave finished the game completing 16-of-26 passes for 127 yards and one touchdown to go along with his first half interception. By contrast, Minnesota's Nelson completed just 7-of-23 passes for 83 yards, mixing in 32 rushing yards on nine carries.
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