Football: Badgers complete decade of dominance after 10th straight win over Minnesota

Senior running back James White won his fourth straight game against Minnesota Saturday.

Senior running back James White won his fourth straight game against Minnesota Saturday.

Image By: Grey Satterfield and Grey Satterfield

Surrounded by his teammates, senior noseguard Beau Allen waited next to Paul Bunyan’s Axe, watching the play on the field.

When redshirt sophomore quarterback Joel Stave took a knee with a little over a minute left in the game, he grabbed it and ran toward the end zone. The streak hit 10.

In the chilliest weather No. 19 Wisconsin (6-1 Big Ten, 9-2 overall) has played in all season, the Badgers cut down their hottest rival, No. 25 Minnesota (4-3 Big Ten, 8-3 overall), with a 20-7 win in Minneapolis Saturday.

“Ten is a solid number,” said redshirt senior linebacker Chris Borland at a press conference after the game. “It has been a good decade for us.”

Wisconsin senior running back James White rushed for one touchdown and 125 yards, while redshirt senior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis boasted 67 total yards and seven catches.

Minnesota scored its only touchdown when redshirt senior linebacker Aaron Hill intercepted a Stave pass to complete a 39-yard touchdown run.

“It was a tremendous victory for us,” head coach Gary Andersen said. “It was a hard-fought football game. Minnesota’s a good football team.”

On the first play of the game, White ran for 49 yards and got the Badgers into field-goal range, where sophomore kicker Jack Russell took over and put the Badgers up 3-0 with a 31-yard field goal.

The Gophers’ defense offered little opportunity after that, stopping the Badgers on their next three plays. Minnesota had prepared well for Wisconsin’s powerhouse running game and was tough on White and redshirt sophomore running back Melvin Gordon, who was held to just 69 yards.

In the beginning of the second quarter, Stave was hit by junior defensive lineman Michael Amaefula as he was throwing the ball, and Hill intercepted his attempted pass and took it to the end zone for a Minnesota touchdown.

As Minnesota began to gain momentum, Borland recovered a fumble from Minnesota sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson. Less than three minutes later, White scored on a one-yard rush to reclaim Wisconsin’s lead.

Russell kicked a 20-yard field goal with three seconds left in the second quarter, and the Badgers had a 13-7 lead heading into halftime.

As the sun began to sink (along with the temperature), Wisconsin put together its longest drive of the game to start the second half. In seven minutes and five seconds, Wisconsin used both White and Abbrederis to complete an 82-yard drive. Abbrederis finished it off for the Badgers by taking a Stave pass two yards for a touchdown.

“It was good to see Joel be able get that done,” Andersen said. “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised.”

With Wisconsin leading 20-7, Borland forced and recovered a fumble from Gophers junior running back David Cobb. On Wisconsin’s ensuing drive, a botched snap led to a missed field-goal opportunity by Russell.

The Gophers did not cross midfield for the rest of the third quarter.

“We are proud,” Borland said. “I have a lot of respect for Minnesota’s offense. To not give up any points to a team that has been moving the ball well against good defenses is a performance to be proud of.”

The last quarter saw back-and-forth possessions until Minnesota strung together a 4:18, 55-yard drive that came up short after a slew of incomplete and no-gain passes thrown by Nelson.

Wisconsin got the ball back and burned up the remaining minutes on the clock. Stave took a knee to end the game, and the celebration with the Axe ensued.

Stave completed 16-of-26 passes, while Minnesota’s Nelson was largely ineffective, completing just seven of his 23 attempts.

Wisconsin’s win marks its 10th straight against Minnesota, meaning the Axe has called Madison home since 2003.

“Tradition means a lot to us,” Borland said. “After a decade with the Axe you don’t want to be the team that’s standing there when they run across the field and take it from you. We’re proud to continue the tradition and hopefully it continues next year.”

Despite the Badgers winning and improving to 9-2 on the year, both Michigan State and Ohio State clinched their spots in the Big Ten title game, which will be played in Indianapolis, Ind., Dec. 7. However, Wisconsin still has a shot at a BCS bowl game.

The Badgers will play their last regular season game against Penn State at home Saturday. contributed to this report.

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