Wisconsin 28, Minnesota 14: 2-minute drill

MINNEAPOLIS — Wisconsin scored 21 unanswered points to beat Minnesota 28-14 and reclaim Paul Bunyan’s Axe on Saturday at Huntington Bank Stadium.

Play of the Game

Minnesota was up 14-7 late in the first half and appeared to have all the momentum. But Wisconsin’s offense was up to the task on its next possession, a drive that got jump-started by quarterback Tanner Mordecai buying time with his legs and finding Chimere Dike for 35 yards. The senior wide receiver jumped up and let out a huge scream. Three plays later the Badgers were in the end zone to tie the game. They would eventually score 21 straight to end the Gophers ownership of the Axe.

Game Balls


RB Braelon Allen

Playing what was likely his final game in a Wisconsin uniform, Allen put together his best effort of the season. He carried it 26 times for 165 yards, matching his most yards in a game since going for 228 yards against Nebraska more than two years ago. He was at his peak when he broke a couple tackles and took off for a 50-yard gain in the middle of the third quarter. The junior went in from five yards out on the next play for his second touchdown of the day. If it was the end for Allen, he went out the best way possible.

QB Tanner Mordecai

The quarterback delivered another great performance, using both his arm and legs to get the Badgers across the finish line for the win. He was a solid 14-for-22 for 145 yards and two scores, but was fantastic on the possession just before half to tie it up. On that four-play, 75-yard drive, he went 4-for-4 with completions of 35 to Dike, 24 and five to Allen and then an 11-yard touchdown to Will Pauling. The senior added another 69 yards on nine touches with his legs, with three of those resulting in first downs.

Offensive line

Wisconsin had 267 yards rushing and averaged 6.1 yards per carry while doing it. Mordecai was barely touched all day and the Gophers managed just two tackles for loss. It was the most dominant effort by a Wisconsin offensive line against Minnesota since at least 2017.


S Hunter Wohler

Not cleared to play until Friday night after suffering a head injury against Nebraska, Wohler was all over the place against Minnesota. He finished with 12 tackles and a quarterback hurry, but was more than just his numbers. He played with the type of furry and recklessness needed in a game that is usually decided around the line of scrimmage.

CB Ricardo Hallman

The Gophers abused Wisconsin down the field in their 23-16 win last season in Madison. That never materialized on Saturday, with Hallman playing a leading role. The Badgers held Athan Kaliakmanis to just 167 yards through the air. Midway through the fourth quarter, Kaliakmanis took a deep shot to Chris Autman-Bell on fourth down but Hallman had it covered beautifully and it fell incomplete. A couple drives later, under extreme pressure from linebacker Jeff Pietrowski, Kaliakmanis threw in Hallman’s direction again and the cornerback came up with the interception. It was his sixth pick of the season, the most by a Wisconsin CB since 2000.

What Went Right

The answer

This really isn’t about this particular game but more about what the last two weeks mean for coach Luke Fickell and his program. Most left them for dead after the ugly effort against Northwestern. But, challenged by team leaders, the Badgers answered with an inspired performance to not only get bowl eligible last week but to finish out with two wins and helping keep two rivals — Nebraska and Minnesota — out of a bowl game. They didn’t have to fight like they did. It wouldn’t have been a surprise, based on what the season had been, if they just laid down. But they showed the culture is still strong in Madison and the toughness exhibited over much of the last 30 years is still embedded in the fabric of the program.

What Went Wrong

The start on defense

I mean…what more can be said that hasn’t already. The Badgers are not a good first quarter team as evidenced by Minnesota going right down the field on a 6-play, 72-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. It was the fourth straight game Wisconsin has allowed the opposition to score on their first drive.

What They Said

In Case You Missed It

— Wisconsin played without several key pieces due to injury, including running back Jackson Acker and wide receiver Bryson Green.

— Will Pauling caught two passes for 19 yards and a touchdown. He left the Nebraska game early with an ankle injury and didn’t practice until Friday.

— Allen was the third player to grab the axe and swing at the goal posts. That’s a tradition usually saved for the seniors or guys playing their final games.

— Kicker Nathanial Vakos grabbed the big “W” flag and ran around with it before planting it inside the Minnesota end zone.

Inside the Numbers

63-62-2 — That is the all-time series record between the Badgers and Gophers, with Wisconsin retaking the lead. The Badgers are 17-3 in the last 20.

22 — That is how many winning seasons Wisconsin has in a row after picking up its seventh win. That is the longest streak of any Power 5 team.

306 — That is how many rushing yards Mordecai has on the season. It’s the most by a Wisconsin quarterback since Tanner McEvoy in 2014. Mordecai has done that despite missing nearly 3 1/2 games with injury.

66 — That is how many catches Pauling has this year. It’s the fifth-most in a single season for the Badgers.

3,494 — That is how many yards Allen has run for in his career. It ranks 9th all-time in school history.

113 — That’s how many tackles Wohler has this year. It’s the third-most by a defensive back in school history and the most since 1991.

What’s Next

Wisconsin (7-5, 5-4) will wait until next weekend to see where it will head for bowl season.