Final Score: No. 14 Wisconsin 13, Minnesota 23

Brief Recap: Rivalry Week delivered once again, this time with the Badgers and Gophers going tooth-and-nail to the final whistle. Nothing else should be expected with Paul Bunyan’s Axe up for grabs, but the two sides did not disappoint. The first half was dominated by Wisconsin’s defense with the Badgers grabbing a pick-6 for the first touchdown of the game. Minnesota was also held to 2 field goals and 6 points over the first 30 minutes.

The third quarter was a different story. Minnesota’s defense started the second half with a crazy interception by Justin Walley that set up a go-ahead touchdown for the Gophers. The Minnesota defense would also hold Wisconsin to a field goal after an 11-play drive before coming right back down the field with a touchdown. That score gave the Gophers a lead they would not relinquish in the upset.

Key Player: The running back tandem of Mar’Keise Irving and Ky Thomas for the Gophers. With all the attention on Wisconsin’s phenom Braelon Allen, it was Irving and Thomas that did just enough to secure the win. The young duo for Minnesota combined for 92 yards on the ground with Irving adding an additional 39 yards receiving. The big story in this game was the defensive pressure from both squads, but it was Irving and Thomas that provided enough of a punch for the Gophers.

Key Moment: Shortly into the 4th quarter, Wisconsin was facing a 20-13 deficit and had a chance to tie the game. That 7-play drive would stall out but led to a field goal try by Collin Larsh. His try was just short, bouncing off the crossbar and back into the field of play. Minnesota would chew up over 5 minutes of possession on the ensuing drive and kick a field goal for the 10-point lead.

Key Stat: 47, number of rushing yards for Braelon Allen in the loss. Allen was riding a streak of 7-straight games with 100+ rushing yards and was coming off a 228-yard outburst vs. Nebraska. Allen had 11 rushing touchdowns over that streak. He averaged just 2.8 YPC and was shut out of the end zone vs. the Gophers.

What it means for Wisconsin: A year that started with “what could have been’s” ends in a similar fashion for the Badgers. Paul Chryst’s squad had rallied with a 7-game winning streak and was positioned to get to Indianapolis with a win vs. Minnesota. Unfortunately, the loss drops Wisconsin to 8-4 on the year and gives Iowa the B1G West division title. That also stings as Wisconsin manhandled the Hawkeyes with a 27-7 win earlier in the year.

What it means for Minnesota: After a win to reclaim the Axe, it’s time to talk about the 2021 season being PJ Fleck’s best coaching job with the Gophers. After losing Mo Ibrahim in the season opener and Trey Potts early in the year, Minnesota rallied to get to 8-4 and will be looking at a solid bowl game in the postseason. No, the Gophers did not win the division, but Minnesota responded to every bit of adversity thrown its way this season in admirable fashion.