Dec. 19, 2020: The Minnesota Golden Gophers fell to the Wisconsin Badgers 17-20 in the 130th Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
The 130th Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe started in classic Big Ten fashion, back-to-back punts and Fox’s so-called “rules analyst” Dean Blandino began the day 0 for 2 on calls going against the Gophers. I think Joe Rossi‘s defense took that personally, they forced back-to-back punts to start the contest. Overall, the game couldn’t have started better for the Gophers, as Mo Ibrahim took Minnesota down the field for a Cam Wiley TD giving the Gophers a 7-0 lead. Unfortunately, Wisconsin quickly answered with a 39 yard Garrett Groshek TD to even the game at seven. Tanner Morgan‘s hot start continued, leading down the field as it looked like another Ibrahim TD was going to give the Goph’ a 14-7 lead, until a holding call called it back. The following play was a Morgan INT resulting in a brutal swing of plays. The half closed out with four straight punts, and a turnover on down. Tied up going into the half.
The Gophers’ offense opened the second half with a punt. While Wisconsin’s offense opened the second half with a new QB, as Chase Wolf replaced Graham Mertz behind center for the Badgers. It only lasted two plays, as Mertz came returned very shortly, until the Badgers punted once again. The Gophers opened up the scoring in the second half with a FG from Anders Gelecinskyj giving the Gophers a 10-7 lead.
— GopherHole.com (@GopherHole) December 19, 2020
Wisconsin answered with a scoring drive of their own, caped off by a TD pass by backup Badgers’ QB, Chase Wolf. Gophers trailed 10-14. A three an out drive from the Gophers offense gave the ball back to the Badgers, but Minnesota defense came up big forcing only a field goal extending Wisconsin’s lead to 17-10. The ball was back in Tanner Morgan‘s hands, and the Gophers’ QB came up big. Morgan drove Minnesota all of the way down the field, and found Mike Brown-Stephens for nine yard TD evening the game at 17 with 4:40 remaining. Wisconsin began moving the ball down the field with its backup QB, until Coney Durr came up big with an INT. The Gophers offense retained possession with 1:19 remaining. Morgan avoided absolute disaster, as Conner Olson jumped on a fumble. P.J. Fleck rightfully opted to head for overtime.
Overtime saw the majestic, Anders Gelecinskyj fail to convert a 36 yard field goal, and Wisconsin took advantage with a 30 yard field goal of its own to win 20-17.
Overall, I know its a tough pill to swallow, but I would say that this is a very encouraging performance from the Gophers. It was a very encouraging performance from all parts of the team. Wisconsin has arguably a top 10 defense in the country if not top five, and Minnesota’s offense was able to move the ball on them. It was one of the defenses best performances of the year, and you really could not have asked for much more from that side of the ball.
A win would obviously have been ideal, but the way that Minnesota has closed out the season following an 0-2 is definitely encouraging. I would hope this will be great momentum for a young team heading into next season. The linebacker play looked great, James Gordon IV and Mariono Sori-Marin both had terrific games. The WR position looks great at ever, as Daniel Jackson and Mike Brown-Stephens both might have had their best games in a Gophers uniform. After years of hoping, it is tough to hear, but there is a lot to look forward to about this team, and the future does look bright.
A loss will hurt Minnesota’s chances heading to a bowl game this season, but during COVID times I would not count anything out. As of now the Minnesota Gophers next football game will be Sept 2, 2021 against Ohio State in TCF Bank Stadium.
This loss was not on Tanner Morgan, it was not on P.J. Fleck. Wisconsin won and the Gophers lost plain and simple.