Could we be in for a rematch in next weekend’s Big Ten championship game? If the second half of the Minnesota-Wisconsin game goes the same way as the first, we absolutely will. Maybe.
Through two quarters of play, and on the road in Madison, the Gophers have (mostly) maintained control of the first two quarters, taking a 17-13 lead on the Badgers into the halftime. The winner of this game, in addition to grabbing the famed Paul Bunyan’s Axe trophy, will claim the Big Ten West and earn a spot opposite Ohio State in the conference title game next Saturday in Indianapolis.
OSU beat Minnesota earlier this month 31-24 in Minneapolis.
In this game, the story for the most part has been the Gophers’ defense, especially when it comes to containing the Badgers’ vaunted rushing attack. Melvin Gordon came into Week 14 leading the nation in rushing with 2,109 yards; through two quarters of play, he has 55 yards on 14 carries. Gordon’s longest run of the day has gone for 23 yards, meaning he has totaled just 32 yards on 13 of his carries.
Overall, the Badgers were limited to 187 yards of offense and four first downs; 70 of those yards, though, came on a Joel Stave pass to Alex Erickson that set-up a touchdown catch by Gordon late in the second quarter, while another 49 came on a last-minute drive that ended in a field goal. The Gophers weren’t exactly a well-oiled machine, either, putting just 153 yards of total offense in the stat book. They were able to dent the scoreboard twice with touchdowns, though, one early in the first quarter on a Matt Leidner touchdown pass and one later that quarter on a David Cobb 40-yard touchdown run.
Cobb, incidentally, led all rushers with 95 yards. Additionally, he broke the school’s single-season rushing record on a first-quarter run.
The story of the first half, though, was defense so, if you’re more the visual type, here’s the first two quarters in GIF form:
What has to be troubling for the Gophers, though, is how momentum shifted to the Badgers late. UM was up 17-3 late in the second quarter before UW put up 10 points to close the gap significantly.
The Badgers and their momentum will also get the ball first to start the second half, adding to the Gophers’ halftime angst.