Minnesota Throttles Wisconsin, 37-15, To Win Paul Bunyan's Axe

Minnesota Throttles Wisconsin, 37-15, To Win Paul Bunyan's Axe

Football

Minnesota Throttles Wisconsin, 37-15, To Win Paul Bunyan's Axe

MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin honored 16 players prior to its regular-season finale, a senior class that has gone 41-11 over the last four seasons and helped elevate the Badgers as a program.

But on Saturday, those Badgers had another stigma attached to their legacy, they became the senior class to finally lose Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

Saving its worst performance of the season for the final, a listless Wisconsin was outplayed in all three phases in an ugly 37-15 defeat to Minnesota at Camp Randall Stadium.

It was the first win for the Gophers (6-6, 3-6 Big Ten) in the rivalry since 2003, a span of 14 games, the first in Madison since 1994 and their biggest margin of victory over UW since 1969. It’s no surprise that when the clock struck zero, Minnesota’s entire bench sprinted across the field and through the UW bench to parade around the trophy.

There should be nothing shocking about this result for the Wisconsin players who could stomach watching the Gophers chop down the Camp Randall goal posts.

Losing its most conference games since 2012, Wisconsin (7-4, 5-4 Big Ten) was listless and committed careless turnovers on offense, didn’t make near enough plays on defense while missing too many tackles and all four special teams made errors.

The problems started under center. Making his first start since Nov.3, Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook looked rusty in the opening half and made the same mistakes that have plagued him throughout his career, throwing three interceptions and coughing up a fumble.

His first interception could be labeled as one of the game’s turning points.

Getting a first down at the Minnesota 39 following a targeting penalty against linebacker Blake Cashman, the Gophers’ leading tackler, Hornibrook threw into triple coverage inside Minnesota’s 30 that the Gophers intercepted and returned to their own 42. That drive ended with a touchdown on an easy 10-yard run on fourth-and-2.

Despite throwing for 189 yards and two touchdowns, Hornibrook committed three interceptions and a fumble, miscues that the Gophers turned into 24 points.

Hornibrook wasn’t the only one who failed interception was one of the multiple situations where Wisconsin gifted things to the Gophers. Rafael Gaglianone missed a 31-yard field goal on the opening drive, his fourth miss from 42 yards or less this season. Following Minnesota’s first touchdown, a wide-open A.J. Taylor failed to secure a pass on third-and-8 that would have moved the chains. On the next play, Demetrius Douglas broke a couple lazy arm tackles and returned the punt 69 yards for the score.

The game was essentially over in the third quarter. UW opened the second half with the ball but poor execution on a fourth-and-4 turned the ball over to the Gophers at midfield. Minnesota chewed 4:11 off the clock to tack on a field goal and make the lead 20-7.

Hornibrook sealed it one possession later, forcing a pass on third-and-10 that went off Kendric Pryor’s hands and into the arms of linebacker Julian Huff. UW chewed 4:52 off the clock this time, still ending with an Emmit Carpenter field goal. A senior from Green Bay, Carpenter went 3-for-4 on his kicks, hitting from 34, 23 and 42.

Minnesota added to UW’s misery in the fourth quarter with forcing two turnovers and controlling 12:46 of the clock, allowing all the maroon-and-gold clad Gophers fans plenty of time to make their way down to the lower level to start celebrating.

With the regular season now over, Wisconsin awaits its bowl destination, which will be announced Dec.2

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