Emotions boil over off field after game

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 17, 2007 - 10:53 PM

There appeared to be plenty of unpleasant exchanges between the Gophers and Badgers in Saturday's season finale.

The Gophers-Badgers football rivalry got a little more heated in the 117th meeting on Saturday at the Metrodome.

The game included plenty of fireworks in Wisconsin's 41-34 victory, and it carried over to the postgame. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema sprinted full speed in the direction of Gophers coach Tim Brewster after the final horn, and the two exchanged only a brief handshake.

Bielema said he was so animated, in part, because cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu got "punched in the lower extremities" by Gophers wide receiver Eric Decker during the game.

Decker acknowledged both he and Ikegwuonu crossed the line a few times. Ikegwuonu later head-butted Decker after getting hit in the groin.

"There's a lot of emotion that goes into it, and the closer the game was, the more heated it got," Decker said. "Maybe sometimes I took a couple of cheap shots at him, he took a couple of cheap shots at me. It was a fair game at the end, and we respect each other."

Ikegwuonu was not available to comment.

Wisconsin kicker Taylor Mehlhaff also accused Gophers freshman quarterback Clint Brewster, son of the head coach, of jawing at him after the game.

"I just went over to say good game to their kicker and this kid, the coach's son, comes over and I don't want to say what he said, but he just said, 'You guys are terrible' and this and that, we're 1-10 and we should have beat you and this and that," Mehlhaff told Wisconsin reporters. "I'm just like, 'Wow.'

"I was giving their guys high-fives ... and telling them good game. I just couldn't believe anyone would come up and be like that. And then he said, 'How many kicks did you miss today?' That's pretty bold. I just said, 'I've got to go celebrate the axe.' "

According to team policy, Clint Brewster is not available for interviews until he plays in a game.

Bielema said Mehlhaff relayed the conversation to him, prompting a response from Bielema that is certain to be revisited next season. "You want a rivalry, you got one," he said.

Record-setting performance

Despite playing with an injured leg, Decker caught six passes for 125 yards and two TDs and set a single-season school record for receptions.

Decker broke Tutu Atwell's record of 62 catches set in 1996. Decker finished the season with 67 catches for 909 yards, which tied for the fifth-highest total in school history.

Senior wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright also had a noteworthy game in his college finale. Wheelwright caught seven passes for 92 yards. He finished his Gophers career third in career receiving yards (2,434), second in career receptions (163), second in TD catches (26) and fourth with six 100-yard receiving games.

Failed fake punt

With his team trailing by only one touchdown, Brewster called a fake punt on fourth-and-10 early in the fourth quarter. But punter Justin Kucek gained only 8 yards and was stopped at the Minnesota 49.

Kevin Mannion was called for holding on the play, but the Badgers declined the penalty.

"The fake was there," Brewster said. "We studied it. It was there. Unfortunately, it was probably a yard too long for what we needed."

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