Wisconsin Opponent Preview - Minnesota

Wisconsin Opponent Preview - Minnesota

Football

Wisconsin Opponent Preview - Minnesota

The final regular season game for Wisconsin brings rival Minnesota to Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers have already had some big games this year – Iowa, Penn State, Nebraska and Northwestern –  but this game is bigger than all those games combined.  Nothing is more important to those players than this trophy game for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.  And the Badgers are looking to keep it where it belongs, here at Camp Randall Stadium, where it has been for the last 14 years.

Minnesota is coming off a home loss against Big Ten West champion Northwestern, an offensive struggle for the Gophers. Freshman quarterback Tanner Morgan struggled this game with throwing two interceptions and fumbling three times, losing one. Those loomed larger than the nearly 200 yards passing on 19 of 32 throws.

In seven games (four starts), Morgan has completed 59.3 percent of his passes for 163.6 yards per game, seven touchdowns and six interceptions.

His biggest target this game was junior wide receiver Tyler Johnson, who caught eight balls and having the only receiving touchdown this game. The other main target was freshmen wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who had four catches for 54 yards. Minnesota also relied heavily on running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who had 98 of the 109 yards and the only rushing touchdown for the Gophers. That’s a decent total considering the Gophers’ o-line is inconsistent, evident by its 26 sacks allowed this year.

With a young quarterback and running back running the show, it can become difficult for an offense to generate consistent momentum, especially against a defense that is loaded with seasoned veterans that can force turnovers and stall drives. Those struggles took away a terrific game from senior linebacker Blake Cashman, who delivered 20 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack.

Junior defensive back Chris Williamson also had a part in this game, having himself a sack and 2 tackles for loss. As a whole, the Gophers delivered seven tackles for loss and won the third down battle, holding Northwestern to 4-for-13 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down. Junior end Carter Coughlin – a former four-star linebacker – has recorded nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss in his first year on the d-line.

Northwestern was also kept under 100 yards rushing but did get over 230 yards in passing on the Minnesota defense.

Before one takes Minnesota lightly, remember that the Gophers blew out Purdue, 41-10, in Minneapolis a week earlier, the same Purdue team that took Wisconsin to triple overtime last week. Minnesota’s Morgan struggled this game, but Ibrahim had himself a night with 155 rushing yards on the Boilermakers.  Defensively the Gophers won the third down conversions, not allowing Purdue to convert any of its 12 opportunities. Purdue was held to 145 yards passing and 88 yards rushing, so the Badgers need to be wary.

Paul Bunyan’s Axe means everything to Wisconsin and keeping it here in Madison is a top priority every preseason. The preparations for this game is taken seriously and players are locked in.  This isn’t just a game but a battle between two teams. The game will be a grind for both teams, working for every inch on the field to get the advantage.  Players will put everything on the line in order to win this game.  This will be the biggest challenge the Badgers will face this season, and it is a challenge that they must not lose.

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