MADISON — The Wisconsin Badgers no longer hold Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers came into Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, took advantage of the Badgers’ mistakes and turnovers, and dictated every facet of their 37–15 win over Wisconsin.
Wisconsin turned the ball over four times without creating any takeaway opportunities of its own. Those miscues lead to 24 Minnesota points. The Badgers gained only 359 yards and converted only four of 11 third-down opportunities.
The final defensive stats are misleading, as the Badgers’ defense allowed 325 yards and limited the Gophers to 5-of-14 on third downs. However, the Minnesota offense effectively and continuously ground down Wisconsin’s defense by rushing for 201 yards. Mohamed Ibrahim rushed for 121 yards on 26 carries with a touchdown, while Bryce Williams ran for 50 yards and two touchdowns.
The lone bright spot for Wisconsin on the overcast day—the weather perhaps a harbinger of the day’s events—was Jonathan Taylor, who ran for 120 yards on 19 carries. Then again, when a team gets blown out like this, is there a bright spot?
RB @JayT23 is the 4th player in FBS history to record back-to-back 1,900-yard rushing seasons.
— Brian Mason (@Brian_Mason) November 24, 2018
The returning Alex Hornibrook finished the day 22-of-33 for 189 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, plus a lost fumble.
Redshirt senior inside linebacker T.J. Edwards, playing in his final game at Camp Randall, recorded 18 tackles (12 solo).
Wisconsin’s first drive looked promising, but it stalled after a third-down pass from Hornibrook to Danny Davis fell incomplete. Rafael Gaglianone missed his fifth field goal of the season, a chip-shot 30-yarder.
Minnesota took advantage, driving 65 yards in 10 plays. Wisconsin’s defense bent but did not break, so Emmit Carpenter connected on a 34-yard field goal to give the Gophers a 3–0 lead.
Wisconsin started to drive down the field again, getting into Minnesota territory, but a Hornibrook interception by defensive back Coney Durr nullified any scoring opportunity. The Gophers again made the most of their opportunity, going 59 yards in nine plays. P.J. Fleck’s offense converted two fourth-down chances, including the 10-yard touchdown by Ibrahim to make it 10–0.
It went from bad to worse in that second quarter, as Wisconsin punted after a third-down drop by wide receiver A.J. Taylor ruined a would-be first down. Demetrius Douglas took Connor Allen’s 42-yard punt and went 69 yards for another Minnesota touchdown. Carpenter’s extra point made it 17–0 Gophers.
To their credit, Hornibrook and the Badgers’ offense pushed back and got on the scoreboard before the end of the half. The southpaw quarterback completed five of six passes for 49 yards on the series, capping the drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jake Ferguson. Gaglianone’s extra point made it 17–7 heading into halftime.
Wisconsin drove down the field to start the second half but failed to move the chains on a 4th-and-4 from the Minnesota 44-yard line. Carpenter later connected on a 23-yard field goal to extend the lead to 20–7. The Gophers’ kicker was busy in the third quarter, and thanks to another Hornibrook interception, Minnesota turned a shorter field into points. Wisconsin’s defense again did not allow a touchdown but gave up yardage to allow the Gophers to get into field-goal range. Carpenter’s 42-yard attempt was good, and the lead went up to 23–7.
Though Minnesota did not score on the drive, one series took up over 9:16 in the fourth quarter, effectively suffocating any chance of Wisconsin’s offense getting back on the field.
When Wisconsin did get the ball back, Hornibrook turned it over again, this time on a fumble on a 2nd-and-3 that gave Minnesota great field position at the UW 23-yard line. Williams carried it to the end zone on the very next play, and Wisconsin was down 30–7.
The follies continued for the offense. Hornibrook threw his third interception of the game.
Once again, Minnesota took advantage. Six plays and 29 yards later, Williams found the end zone again from 16 yards out. Carpenter’s extra point made it 37–7.
Wisconsin’s offense, like it did at the end of the second quarter, drove down the field late in the fourth quarter to score. Hornibrook found Davis for a 13-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion to Adam Krumholz made it 37–15 Minnesota with 72 seconds left in the game.