By beating Wisconsin 37-15 on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium, the Gophers not only won Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time since 2003 and earned bowl eligibility, they also had one of the game’s biggest plays recognized.
The Gophers’ Demetrius Douglas on Monday was named the Big Ten special teams player of the week for his 69-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Badgers. Douglas’ second-quarter return boosted the Gophers’ lead to 17-0 shortly after they had gone up 10-0. Coach P.J. Fleck called it the biggest play of the game.
Douglas, a redshirt freshman, spread the credit around.
“That’s just a tribute to my coaches and my teammates,’’ Douglas said. “The coaches put me in the best position to be able to return it, and my teammates came through, got on their blocks, stayed on their blocks and just gave me a hole to run through. It was really just a whole team effort.’’
Douglas’ weekly honor is the eighth for the Gophers season, and it provided a bookend of Minnesota punt returners being honored by the Big Ten this season. In the opener against New Mexico State, Antoine Winfield Jr. returned a punt 76 yards for a TD and was named conference special teams player of the week.
The other weekly awards for the Gophers this season were Winfield and linebacker Blake Cashman for defensive player of the week, kicker Emmit Carpenter for special teams, and Mohamed Ibrahim, Tanner Morgan and Rashod Bateman for freshman of the week. The eight Big Ten weekly honorees are a team record. Minnesota had seven players honored in 2014.