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November 11, 2011
What they're saying
MADISON - Yes, Wisconsin has won each of the past seven games in the UW-Minnesota rivalry. Yes, none of the players on the Badger roster has any idea what it's like not to have the axe. Flip that for Minnesota. None of the Gopher players have any idea what it's like to have the axe.
Some call the Badgers-Gophers rivalry one-sided. Don't tell that to the UW players, though.
Throughout the past week BadgerBlitz.com has talked about the rivalry with several key Badger players. The following is a look at what they're saying.
-On the rivalry:
"This is the end all be all. I think I heard one person say that we could lose every game, but if we beat Wisconsin - - I think it was a Minnesota quote - - then it's a good season. That's how important the rivalry is. It's a state-pride thing. It's an excitement thing. It's something we all get excited about."
-On the pride UW has for keeping the axe:
"Part of keeping the edge is that you never want to let it get into Minnesota's hands. I've seen film about when they run over to the sideline. I never want that to happen. It always comes back to the preparation during the week and knowing your fundamentals and focusing in. At the end of the day that axe represents a win and you doing the right things."
-On what it would be like if UW lost:
"I think your heart would sink. It would just be one of those unbelievable moments you should never experience. I haven't experienced that since watching as a kid on TV. Since I invest more into it now I think it would be 10 times as bad."
-On the state of the rivalry:
"I think it's still strong. A lot of people don't think so. When you play in the game and you see how hard guys fight and how long they fight it's much bigger than a regular game. Everybody just gets going for this game. They want the axe worse than anybody after seven years. We want it just as bad because we don't want to give it up. We've had it for so long we expect to have it and we don't want to give it up. I think that adds to the rivalry."
-On whether Minnesota is UW's biggest rival:
"Definitely. Without a doubt. Growing up in Wisconsin that's the first thing that pops up on my mind."
On what the axe means to him personally:
"I love it. I don't know if this is what it means to me, but as far as when you hold it, run around the field and chop down the goalpost, it's like something you've dreamed of. It's something you work hard for. Once you have it it's kind of your moment for all time. You just dive into that moment and nothing can touch you."
On what the axe means:
"It's important. Obviously the axe symbolizes a win. Anytime you play a game you want to have the opportunity to win. It's been here seven straight years so that means we've won every game for seven years. So it's an important game because it's the next game. We're playing for these seniors and trying to go out the right way."
On the state of the rivalry:
"Yeah, it's a rivalry. You have a trophy to represent it. They're going to fight hard to get it back. We've got to make sure we come out here ready to play and that all happens on the practice field."
On what this game means as a Wisconsin resident?
"Since I can remember I've thought about Wisconsin football. You just think of playing the Gophers ever since I can remember. Especially for the axe and all the history behind it. The games I remember the most is the one where Jonathan Casillas blocked the punt and Ben Strickland recovered. That's the first time I remember the border battle and playing for the axe and how exciting it was."
On the state of the rivalry:
"It's always a rivalry. Records don't matter. You can throw them all out. They're going to be ready to play. We're going to their place. I expect a battle."
On where Minnesota ranks in regards to UW's rivals?:
"It's the Super Bowl. These two teams it's what we play for. We play for the axe. An axe represents a win. It means we got the 'W.'
On what the axe means:
"Everything that I've heard about it, it's the longest running tradition in college football. That in itself makes it a very, very special game. I've just heard so many great things about it. Ben Strickland did such a great job the other day talking about the axe and the history of it. I'm really excited to be a part of the game and I'm looking forward to going in there on Saturday and seeing us play."
On whether he's held the axe:
"I have not held it but I've touched it every day I leave practice. I put my fingers on it. After the victory I'll grab a hold of that sucker and hold it."
On whether out of state guys adhere to the axe like in-state guys do:
"I really haven't noticed. I really haven't heard the guys talk that much about it. We've been so into the game plan and getting ready in our preparation. I'm sure as we get closer I'll hear a little bit more about it. Right now it's out here and it is every day. We see it. I know the guys see it and it's on their mind. But when we're out here practicing and in the film room and meetings it's on the game plan and getting ready to play."
On what the axe means to him:
"You never want to let it go because we haven't yet. I definitely don't want to leave that legacy and be the senior class that lost the axe or the team that lost the axe. We'll have a very focused week of preparation. We have a lot of respect for these guys right now because of how they've been playing. We need a very good effort. They beat Iowa, a very good team. They took Michigan State, obviously a team we couldn't beat, about as far as we did.
On what it would be like to lose the axe:
"The fear of failure is kind of what drives you to work so hard. Sometimes you think of that in your mind and it's something you don't want to have happen to you."
On whether Minnesota is UW's top rival:
"Yeah, definitely. No question about it. It's such a border battle. It gets a little chippy every once in a while. You know these guys well and you sometimes hear what they say. It's always a rivalry. You have to respect the rivalry."
On throwing the records out the window:
"I totally think so. As much as you've heard that I think it's true because you look at the records in the past years of these games and you go back to 1994. Wisconsin went to the Rose Bowl but lost their shot at the national championship. Just throughout the history of the rivalry you need to respect the game and always expect a good game."
On keeping the axe:
"It's huge. People always talk about what you did as a senior. For me, and the rest of the teammates who are seniors, what kind of legacy are we going to leave? Are we going to be the team that left here by losing the axe when we had won it the past seven years? Or are we going to be the team that kept the tradition going? I don't want to known as the team that gave up the axe after so many years. It's more than the axe, though. It's a Big Ten game. It gives us a chance to increase our chances of hopefully playing in December in Indianapolis. It's more than just being about the axe. But the axe is definitely an incentive."
On feeling of carrying the axe after a win:
"It's great. I tell you one thing, you would hate to have them run over to our sideline and have them take it away from me. I haven't had to experience that and I don't plan on experiencing that. I hope that I don't have to go through that. From what I hear from hearing Scott Starks and Ben Strickland talk, they said it was horrible. They said it was one of the worst feelings in the world. I think the most important thing is for us to win on the road. They're going to be pumped up. They beat Iowa and played Michigan State really, really tough. It's going to boil down to us going out there and playing fundamental football. They have a lot of momentum right now."
On knowing about the axe as a senior in high school:
"Not at all. I knew about the Florida State and Miami rivalry. That's it. I know that they take a lot of value into it. That's all I hard. The axe this and the axe that. It's a serious tradition. It's the longest tradition in college football. It's a rich, rich tradition. We're just going to kind of keep it here."
On the state of the rivalry:
"They've played us close every year. These kind of games, when it's considered a rivalry game, you can throw all the records out the window. I remember my freshman year. I think they had won one game prior to playing us and we won by a couple of points. You can throw all the records out the window and all the stats out the window. It boils down to playing. I think it's going to be a very competitive game. It's going to be up to us whether we go down there and give it to them or go down there and make it a great game."