November 13, 2008

Looking back at recent UW-Minnesota battles

MADISON, Wis. - Every year, Wisconsin football fans, players and coaches celebrate the typical success each senior class has had as the season wears down. This weekend, when the Badgers host the Gophers for the right to Paul Bunyan's Axe, it will be the final Big Ten contest for multiple Badger players.

Knowing this, BadgerBlitz.com fires up old memories with a trip down memory lane and recounts every Badger-Gopher game since the current UW seniors have been on the roster.


Minnesota at No. 4 Wisconsin
Year: 2004 (10 current Badgers were on this team)
Final score: 38-14 Wisconsin
Top performer(s): Quarterback John Stocco


Quick recap:

Led by sophomore John Stocco's 297 passing yards, the Badgers jumped on Minnesota early and never let off the gas. The Minnesota native rushed for two touchdowns and threw for one more as UW roared out of the gates and scored 21 first quarter points.

The Badgers, who had lost to the Gophers the previous season, eventually widened its lead to 31-0 before Minnesota's Bryan Cupito connected with wide receiver Ernie Wheelright for the Gophers first score of the game late in the second quarter.

UW senior Anthony Davis finished his last Axe game with 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns and junior wide receiver Jonathan Orr hauled in a touchdown grab. In total, the Badgers held the ball for over 44 minutes in the contest and racked up 525 total yards in the blowout win.

No. 23 Wisconsin at No. 22 Minnesota
Year: 2005
Final score: 38-34 Wisconsin
Top performer(s): Minnesota running backs Laurence Maroney and Gary Russell

Quick recap:

Wisconsin was dead in the water. Laurence Maroney had 258 rushing yards and a touchdown and Gary Russell chipped in 139 more yards while scoring twice. The Badgers were down by 10 points with three and a half minutes to play in the Metrodome.

That was before all the craziness ensued.

Trailing 34-24 following an exhaustive 19-plaay, 80-yard Minnesota touchdown drive that nearly eight minutes, Stocco led UW on a quick-hitting, seven-play, 71-yard touchdown drive of its own capped off by a 21-yard strike to senior receiver Brandon Williams.

On the ensuing onside kick, the ball was inadvertently kicked by a Badger player and rocketed downfield before eventually being recovered deep inside Minnesota territory by a Gopher player. UW held the Gophers, who had rushed for over 400 yards collectively, to a three-and-out forcing the Justin Kucek punt.

Kucek bobbled the snap, panicked, rolled out to his right and tried to punt it anyway. However, Jonathan Casillas met the ball on Kucek's foot and blocked it. The ball ricocheted into the endzone when Ben Strickland fell on it for the go-ahead touchdown. UW left Minneapolis by stealing a win from the hated Gophers and protected the Axe.


Minnesota at No. 25 Wisconsin
Year: 2006
Final score: 48-12 Wisconsin
Top performer(s): P.J. Hill, John Stocco and Travis Beckum

Quick recap:

Jack Ikegwuonu gave the Badger's an early lead just over one and a half minutes into the game when he picked up a loose ball and sprinted 50 yards for the touchdown. After the early momentum swing on UW's homecoming, the Badgers never looked back.

Hill finished the game with 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns and Stocco passed for 193 yards with four touchdowns. Beckum had a great day as well, finishing the rivalry game with five catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

UW took a 28-3 lead into the half and expanded it to 41-5 by the end of the third quarter. The game marked the second consecutive time the Badgers blew out its border state rival at Camp Randall as it coasted to an easy 48-12 win.

No. 25 Wisconsin at Minnesota
Year: 2007
Final score: 41-34 Wisconsin
Top performer(s): Zach Brown

Quick recap:

With Hill banged up and former Badger Lance Smith unable to travel with the team for road games, it was true freshman Zach Brown's coming out party. The Florida native rushed for a career best 250 yards and scored two touchdowns in the high-powered shootout in the nation's longest running rivalry game.


Coming into the match-up, Minnesota had only one victory and faced the potential of a winless Big Ten season if it did not defeat Wisconsin. The Badgers came in with the potential of securing a Jan. 1, bowl bid with a win as well as retaining the axe for another year.

Minnesota jumped out to an early 13-3 lead midway through the second quarter before Wisconsin was able to generate some consistent offensive production. Quarterback Tyler Donovan ran in the Badgers first touchdown of the game with under two minutes to play in the opening half to draw his team within three at the break.

In the second half, UW scored the first 10 points and held a 20-13 lead midway through the third quarter. Still, the one-win Gophers were relentless and scored on a Duane Bennett two-yard touchdown run to draw even headed to the fourth.

But the Badger's high-powered offense proved too much for lowly Minnesota as Bill Rentmeester and Beckum each scored a touchdown to open up a 14-point UW lead early in the fourth.

Minnesota closed it to seven, but Brown fittingly scored his second touchdown of the game that proved too be the dagger for the Gophers.

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