The same running gag as Gophers fall to Badgers again

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 21, 2012 - 6:43 AM

For the ninth year in a row, Wisconsin used its power ground attack to claim the Axe.

MADISON, WIS. - The 2012 Badgers sure look a lot like the 2011 edition to the Gophers. And the 2010 and the 2009 and the 2008 bunch, too.

The 2012 Gophers, on the other hand, suddenly bear a striking resemblance to their 2014 version with their recent reliance on true freshmen.

That will be great in two years -- especially if they use that time to plug the gaping hole in the middle of their defense -- but it didn't provide much more than hope Saturday.

Wisconsin used its time-tested formula of a battering-ram running game and a mistake-averse defense to claim Paul Bunyan's Axe for the ninth season in a row, whipping the Gophers 38-13 in Camp Randall Stadium.

But while the Gophers trudged off the field wondering what it feels like to hoist the Axe, they also took with them a feeling of real optimism about the future. Quarterback Philip Nelson made his collegiate debut in the city where he lived for the first dozen years of his life, and while the freshman didn't immediately step into school legend by capturing the Axe, he at least lived up to the quarterback-of-the-future hype that has surrounded him since he chose Minnesota.

"He did some good things, he really did," said coach Jerry Kill, who decided this week that his team couldn't hobble along for the rest of the season wondering what quarterback would be healthy enough to play, especially once MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell were both too battered to practice early in the week.

"I thought his play was encouraging."

So was the identity of his teammates: Andre McDonald made a difficult catch, Lincoln Plsek had a reception and a handful of blocks and Rodrick Williams picked up 20 rushing yards and, Kill said, a couple of blitzes. Considering all are teenage freshmen who have gotten their first substantial playing time in the past eight days, it's a refreshing and sudden infusion of talent, and perhaps the foundation for a dangerous offense.

In a year or two.

In the here and now, however, Nelson -- sticking almost entirely with short and midrange throws -- completed 13 of 24 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns. His confidence grew visibly as the first half wore on, he eluded several tacklers as he rushed for 67 yards and he made the scoring plays look easy. One was a 16-yard slant pass to Brandon Green, the senior's first catch of the season, the other a 12-yard bullet to A.J. Barker at the goal line.

"To get thrown in there like that, in a situation like this, [Nelson] did pretty good," said Green, who has battled swelling in his surgically repaired knees all season. "He found the open people, delivered the ball, moved the offense along in the second half and the end of the first. He just did great."

Nelson threw a pair of interceptions, too, one of them clearly a rookie mistake, and the third-quarter touchdown pass to Barker was the only time in 10 tries that Nelson was able to convert a third down into the necessary yardage. But after the first couple of series, Nelson -- who was informed Friday night that he would be starting -- also rarely looked like the just-barely 19-year-old newbie that he is.

"After the first two drives, I started to realize, you know, this ain't too much different from practice," said Nelson, Minnesota's Mr. Football last year at Mankato West. "It's just like any other game."

It certainly was to the Badgers.

Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) tied the Gophers' record for most consecutive victories in the 122-game series, set from 1933 to '41, mostly because in every meeting between the schools since 2004, some Wisconsin running back follows the usual enormous Wisconsin offensive line down the field for more than 100 rushing yards and at least two touchdowns.

This time, there were two such creatures of habit: James White had 175 yards and three touchdowns and Montee Ball had 166 and two, his exact numbers from a year ago against the Gophers (4-3, 0-3). Wisconsin ran for 337 yards as a team, more than triple the Gophers' paltry 96.

"They've got the same type of football team they've had here for a long time," Kill said. "They're a very physical group, very well-coached. Got some kids that can make some plays."

Most discouraging, though, was the continuation of the Gophers' worst habit: The empty secondary. For the third consecutive game, a Big Ten running back burst across the middle of the line of scrimmage and found himself all alone. At Iowa, the result was runs of 27, 44 and 32 yards by Mark Weisman. Against Northwestern, Venric Mark scored touchdowns from 26 and 48 yards out.

And in front of a packed house of 80,587 mostly red-clad Badgers fans, White had scores of 14, 34 and 48 yards, all of them basically untouched. Ball added 14- and 44-yard scores in the fourth quarter, the 73rd and 74th touchdowns of his career.

"We have some disappointed players and coaches [who wonder], 'Hey, why aren't we getting this shut off?' " Kill said. "They physically keep coming at you. ... I think they just wore us down."

  • WISCONSIN 38, GOPHERS 13 Up next: 2:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Purdue • TCF Bank Stadium • TV: BTN
  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 FINAL
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 4 FINAL
Seattle 9
Cleveland 9 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
NY Mets 4 FINAL
Washington 5
Boston 8 FINAL
Minnesota 9
Toronto 0 FINAL
Baltimore 5
Oklahoma City 105 FINAL
Chicago 108
Dallas 75 FINAL
Portland 94
Calgary 4 FINAL(SO)
Boston 3
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Philadelphia 3
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Washington 1
Toronto 2 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Dallas 4 FINAL(SO)
Florida 3
NY Islanders 4 FINAL
Nashville 3
Vancouver 2 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 3
Montreal 3 FINAL(SO)
Los Angeles 4
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 54 FINAL
Siena 71
Holy Cross 83 FINAL
Bucknell 90
Western Ky 88 FINAL
Charlotte 84
Navy 62 FINAL
Colgate 72
Temple 70 FINAL
East Carolina 56
UAB 59 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 62
Boston Univ 64 FINAL
Lafayette 89
American Univ 68 FINAL
Lehigh 62
Wisconsin 76 FINAL
Minnesota 63
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Saint Peters 63
Arkansas 78 FINAL
South Carolina 74
Morehead State 76 FINAL
UT Martin 65
USC Upstate 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 62
Lipscomb 57 FINAL
North Florida 71
Southern Ill 55 FINAL
Missouri State 48
Texas State 64 FINAL
Appalachian St 67
SC State 62 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 72
Delaware State 104 FINAL
Coppin State 92
Middle Tennessee 54 FINAL
FIU 59
Texas-Arlington 64 FINAL
Ga Southern 76
Norfolk State 80 FINAL
Hampton 69
NC A&T 58 FINAL
NC Central 69
Savannah State 57 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Southern Miss 61 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 72
Marshall 50 FINAL
Old Dominion 67
Rice 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 74
South Alabama 81 FINAL
Arkansas State 76
Alabama State 78 FINAL
Grambling St 46
Alabama A&M 54 FINAL
Jackson State 72
Sam Houston St 67 FINAL
Lamar 61
Georgia State 58 FINAL
ULM 50
Central Arkansas 70 FINAL
Nicholls 77
Portland State 51 FINAL
Northern Ariz 58
Southern U 77 FINAL
Prairie View 73
Alcorn State 73 FINAL
Texas Southern 94
Houston Baptist 72 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 85
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Louisiana 75
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
New Orleans 85
California 60 FINAL
Arizona 99
Memphis 54 FINAL
Connecticut 53
VA Commonwealth 55 FINAL
Davidson 82
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Sacramento St 65 FINAL
Southern Utah 69
Northwestern St 66 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 92
North Texas 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 83
Colorado 64 FINAL
Washington 47
Idaho 63 FINAL
Weber State 74
Abilene Christian 52 FINAL
Incarnate Word 64
Eastern Wash 85 FINAL
Idaho State 81
Marist 80 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Eastern Ill 64 FINAL
Belmont 97
Bradley 52 FINAL
Drake 50
Cal State Fullerton 62 FINAL
UC Irvine 68
CS-Northridge 58 FINAL
Long Beach State 69
UC Riverside 59 FINAL
UC Davis 61
Stanford 62 FINAL
Arizona State 67
Utah 67 FINAL
Washington St 59
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
George Mason 43 FINAL
Saint Josephs 71
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
Arizona 62 FINAL
UCLA 80
FIU 30 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 79
Texas State 55 FINAL
Appalachian St 61
TX-Arlington 66 FINAL
Georgia Southern 41
SC State 57 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 56
Delaware State 51 FINAL
Coppin State 80
Portland 58 FINAL
Santa Clara 66
Norfolk State 49 FINAL
Hampton 64
Florida Atlantic 56 FINAL
UAB 59
NC A&T 67 FINAL
NC Central 46
Savannah State 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 51
Virginia Tech 51 FINAL
Pittsburgh 45
Central Arkansas 43 FINAL
Nicholls 53
Houston Baptist 48 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 73
Gardner-Webb 70 FINAL
Radford 56
Georgia 75 FINAL
Missouri 64
Old Dominion 67 FINAL
Marshall 55
Ark-Little Rock 68 FINAL
Louisiana 66
South Alabama 60 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
Georgia State 66 FINAL
ULM 61
Sam Houston St 73 FINAL
Lamar 92
SE Louisiana 75 FINAL
New Orleans 84
Northwestern St 45 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 56
Alabama A&M 58 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Alabama State 68 FINAL
Grambling 62
Southern U 78 FINAL
Prairie View 50
Alcorn State 55 FINAL
Texas Southern 73
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 54 FINAL
Mercer 75
Abilene Christian 72 FINAL
Incarnate Word 62
La Salle 60 FINAL
Rhode Island 65
Illinois 71 FINAL
Nebraska 86
TX-San Antonio 60 FINAL
Rice 49
Valparaiso 55 FINAL
Oakland 70
Missouri State 65 FINAL
Indiana State 56
Georgia Tech 64 FINAL
(15) North Carolina 84
Charlotte 72 FINAL
Western Ky 80
Texas-El Paso 69 FINAL
North Texas 61
Wichita State 77 FINAL
Evansville 63
Loyola-Chicago 64 FINAL
Northern Iowa 69
Bradley 70 FINAL
Drake 86
Presbyterian 62 FINAL
High Point 75
Vanderbilt 61 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 67
Colorado 75 FINAL
USC 63
San Francisco 74 FINAL
Pacific 64
Idaho State 58 FINAL
Eastern Washington 62
Weber State 42 FINAL
Idaho 71
Purdue 78 FINAL
Minnesota 82
Cal-Irvine 54 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 66
Long Beach St 60 FINAL
CS-Northridge 77
Hawaii 60 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 36
UC Davis 56 FINAL
UC-Riverside 61
Northern Ariz 79 FINAL
Portland State 62
Southern Utah 73 FINAL
Sacramento St 107
Utah 64 FINAL
Washington 75
BYU 65 FINAL
St Marys-CA 64
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close