MADISON, Wis. -- The Gophers aren't bringing Paul Bunyan's Axe home with them, not with that gaping hole in their run defense. But after Saturday's game, they have to feel better about their chances of capturing it over the next three years.
That's because Philip Nelson mostly lived up to his billing as the Gophers' quarterback of the future, showing poise and skill in his first college action, despite Minnesota's 38-13 loss to Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium. The 19-year-old freshman threw a pair of touchdown passes, but also a pair of interceptions in a debut that was at once intriguing and frustrating.
The frustrating part was due to the defense, which for the third straight week, was bludgeoned by a Big Ten running attack. Badger tailback James White scored three touchdowns and Montee Ball two, and both eclipsed 150 yards as Wisconsin pulled away in the second half. It's the ninth straight year that the Badgers have won the Battle of the Axe, equaling the longest winning streak ever in the 122-game series. Minnesota won nine straight games in college football's most-played rivalry from 1933-41.
MarQueis Gray was healthy enough to play the entire game at wide receiver, and he caught two passes for 13 yards. But his ankle injury, and a lingering injury to backup Max Shortell, opened the opportunity for Nelson, the state's Mr. Football last fall at Mankato West High.
Despite playing behind an offensive line that was missing tackle Ed Olson and guard Tommy Olson, Nelson grew more comfortable as the game wore on, and had Minnesota within 14-6 at halftime and 24-13 in the fourth quarter.
White had touchdown runs of 14, 34 and 48 yards, while Ball had scoring romps of 14 and 44 yards.