*CBSSports.com's front page, in an article by Dennis Dodd
This Saturday, two 8-2 teams will meet on the gridiron in the most-played rivalry in Division I FBS football: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin. Paul Bunyan's Axe entered the scene in 1948, and the teams have played for it ever since.
Leading into the 2013 edition of the Border Battle, both the rivalry and the Gopher coaching staff have captured the media's attention. Catch up on some of the national and athletic department coverage here:
During the week...
...Coach Kill's toughness and the Gophers' unique situation were featured in:
*CBSSports.com's front page, in an article by Dennis Dodd
*ESPN.com's college football front page, in an article and video by Ivan Maisel
*USA Today's front sports page, in a feature by Erik Brady
*The Minnesota Daily, in a story by Sam Gordon and Dane Mizutani
...members of the team talked about the historic rivalry:
...ESPN.com did stories on:
...fans had a chance to remember some of the game-changing moments in past Axe games:
...and the team prepared for a game with this on the line:
MINNEAPOLS, Minn. - In the Minnesota locker room following last week's 20-17 win at Northwestern, the Gophers' coaches talked about how much this year's team could accomplish if it just believes in itself.
One of the things mentioned in that victorious celebration was that the Gophers had what it takes to beat Nebraska. That was a bold statement, given that the Huskers entered today's game without a loss in the series in more than 50 years.
Well, it looks like Minnesota's players took that message to heart.
On Saturday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota rallied from an early 10-0 deficit to defeat the No. 21/25 Huskers, 34-23.
Led by sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson, junior running back David Cobb, and an inspired defense, the Golden Gophers scored 17 unanswered points to take a 17-13 lead at the half. Minnesota then scored the first 10 points of the second half to build a 27-13 lead and hold on for the win.
After the game, fans stormed the field and a mass celebration took place around the 50 yard line.
Here are some of the things the Gophers accomplished with the milestone victory:
--Minnesota defeated Nebraska for the first time since a 26-14 win on Sept. 24, 1960, snapping a 16-game losing streak versus NU
--Minnesota scored its most points against the Huskers since a 39-20 win in Minneapolis on Oct. 20, 1951
--The Gophers improved to 6-2 this season, qualifying for a bowl berth for the second consecutive year
--Minnesota recorded its first win versus a nationally-ranked opponent since defeating No. 24 Iowa, 27-24, to end the 2010 season
The win created such a buzz on Twitter that the person updating Minnesota's Game Day Blog could hardly keep up with the traffic.
Nelson entered the game with 8:41 remaining in the second quarter and the Gophers trailing, 10-7. He immediately led Minnesota on a seven-play, 88-yard drive, completing two passes for 53 yards in the process.
The key play on the drive was a 33-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Engel on 4th and 10. Engel beat two Nebraska defenders on a post route and made a leaping grab of Nelson's pass, giving Minnesota a 14-10 lead with 6:21 left in the half.
"When the play call came in, I knew I was the go-to on that play," Engel said. "Philip put a good ball up there, and at first I thought it was going to be overthrown, but it hung in the air. So I stuck a foot and put my hands up and the next thing I knew it was a touchdown."
Here's another milestone - when Engel scored that touchdown, it gave Minnesota its first lead versus the Huskers since 1969. Yes, you read that correctly.
Cobb also played a huge role for the Gophers, as he recorded his second-straight 100-yard rushing game by carrying 31 times for 138 yards, both career-highs. Cobb's performance helped the Gophers rush for 271 yards on 54 attempts, an average of 5.0 yards per carry.
"From the first quarter on, throughout the game, the offensive line had a great push and as a running back if there's no penetration you can see you gaps, holes and cuts and it makes it easy," Cobb said. "So they did a great job of play action pass and it opened up the lines for me. Really, it was more the O-line and just the whole play-calling scheme more so than me."
Defensively, the Gophers allowed 88 yards and 10 points on Nebraska's first two drives of the game, but then settled down to surrender just 81 yards and three points the remainder of the half.
The strong defensive play for Minnesota continued into the third quarter, as the Gophers forced Nebraska into three-and-outs on its first two possessions, while Minnesota's offense took the opportunity to score 10 points and build a 27-13 advantage with 2:33 left in the third.
At that point, the Gophers had outscored the Huskers, 27-3, since the 7:06 mark of the first quarter. Those in the crowd of 49,995 dressed in Maroon and Gold were ecstatic, while those wearing red were in shock.
"I think we all just have this confidence right now," Nelson said after the game. "We know that we can compete with anyone and that's the main thing as a football player. You just have to believe in yourself and that you are going to go out there and compete. That's where we are at right now."
Nebraska fought back, scoring the next 10 points to cut Minnesota's lead to 27-23 with 9:26 remaining. But the Gophers' defense once again did its part to allow Minnesota to retain the lead by forcing a 37-yard field goal by Pat Smith instead of allowing a tying touchdown.
After Nebraska forced a punt to regain possession with 5:50 left in the game, Minnesota's defense did its job once again. The Gophers dropped the Huskers for minus-2 yards and forced a punt, which Sam Foltz shanked out of bounds at the Huskers' 34.
On the ensuing drive, Cobb carried six times for 16 yards and Nelson completed a key 20-yard pass to freshman tight end Maxx Williams, before Nelson sealed the monumental victory with a one-yard touchdown run with 0:48 seconds left.
And, in the end, Minnesota's defense came up big once again, as senior defensive back Jeremy Baltazar intercepted Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez with 0:16 left.
"We are starting to believe and that's all that really needs to be said right now," Nelson said. "We have the confidence rolling from week to week and we are finally starting to realize how good we really can be."
Believing in themselves, the Gophers accomplished what few outside the program thought they could do. Now it's on to Indiana, a team Minnesota last faced during 2008.
Belief. It can create a confidence and a swagger that can help a team accomplish great things.
Saturday's performance versus the Huskers was a perfect example.
Floyd of Rosedale is on the line this Saturday when the Gophers take on Iowa at TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota looks to reclaim the beloved bronze pig it won in both 2010 and 2011 before the Hawkeyes took him back last year. Get ready to #BringFloydHome by catching up on some of this week's coverage.
Line play will be key (ESPN.com)
Floyd, 5-0 record on the line (FSN)
Coaches to wear special patches for MD fundraising (Star Tribune)
How to be a Gopher fan (GopherSports)
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- For the first time this season, Minnesota took its show on the road, and the Golden Gophers turned in another solid all-around performance during a 44-21 win at New Mexico State.
For the second week in a row, head coach Jerry Kill's Gophers scored more than 40 points, with touchdowns coming from the offense, defense and special teams. It's the first time since November 2005 that Minnesota has scored 40 or more points in back-to-back victories, and the team is off to a 2-0 start for the second straight season.
Sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson directed a Minnesota offense that racked up 469 total net yards, and the Gophers used their size advantage to rush for 342 yards. Sophomore Rodrick Williams Jr. led Minnesota with 148 yards and a TD, and Nelson added 122 yards and his third rushing TD of the season on a night where the Gophers were without the services of injured junior Donnell Kirkwood.
Minnesota ran 23 fewer plays than the Aggies, but gained 112 more offensive yards, while averaging 8.1 yards per play in the win. The Gophers' passing game netted just 127 yards, but Minnesota was dominant in the running game with an average rushing play of 8.0 yards.
During last week's 51-23 home victory against UNLV, junior defensive back Marcus Jones opened the second half by returning the Rebels' kickoff 98 yards for a TD. This week, Jones once again made his mark on special teams with a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown with 1:22 left in the first half. It was Minnesota's first punt return for a TD since the 2000 season, and it helped send the Gophers into the locker room with a 27-7 lead at the half.
Defensively, the Gophers held the Aggies to just 4.4 yards per play (2.5 per rush), while forcing a fumble that was returned 50 yards for a touchdown by senior linebacker Aaron Hill late in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota (2-0) now returns home for the next three weeks, beginning with next Saturday's matchup with FCS member Western Illinois. The Gophers will attempt to start a season 3-0 for the second year in a row, something that hasn't happened since they opened 5-0 during 2004 and 4-0 during 2005.
Another all-around performance like they've turned in during the first two weeks will go a long ways toward achieving that distinction.
By athletic communications assistant Michael Molde
After battling to a 16-13 halftime lead against UNLV by scoring a touchdown late in the first half, Minnesota was looking for someone or something to give it a spark in the second half.
That spark came from a guy with two surgically-repaired anterior cruciate ligaments, junior defensive back Marcus Jones. The speedy Jones, whose previous two seasons were ended by ACL tears, took the second half kickoff at Minnesota's 2-yard line and raced down the UNLV sideline for a 98-yard return for a touchdown.
"It couldn't happen to a better person, with what Marcus Jones has been through," head coach Jerry Kill said. "Two ACL injuries, and his return was well-executed. I think maybe one guy got his hand on him."
Jones' score was the Gophers' first kickoff return for a TD since Duane Bennett's 96-yard return versus Wisconsin on Nov. 12, 2011, and it stretched Minnesota's advantage to 23-13 just 12 seconds after the half.
Late in the game, Jones showed his speed again, as he made a touchdown-saving tackle on a 64-yard run by UNLV's Shaquille Murray-Lawrence. Jones gained probably 5 yards on Murray-Lawrence, who had broken through the middle and looked like he'd outrun the defense for a long scoring run. But Jones pulled him down at the Minnesota 11-yard line.
"He got out there (on defense) and made a heck of a play right away," Kill said. "They eventually scored, but he ran a guy down and showed that he could really run. It couldn't have happened to a better kid."
Midway through the third quarter, special teams played a role in another touchdown, as senior nose tackle Ra'Shede Hageman reached up to block a 37-yard field goal attempt by UNLV kicker Nolan Kohorst. Senior defensive back Martez Shabazz gathered in the ball at the UNLV 49 and returned it 51 yards for a score, giving the Gophers a 30-13 lead.
"I think it (the blocked FG) was a big boost for us," Hageman said. "(Martez) Shabazz caught everybody off guard on the other team. He's been making those kind of plays all through practice, so I wasn't surprised by his play. I was able to get the block and then I pushed the ball forward and Shabazz picked it up. It was definitely a game-changer."
Then, early in the fourth stanza and with UNLV driving deep into Minnesota territory, junior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun stepped in front of a Nick Sherry pass attempt and returned it 89 yards for the third touchdown from the Gophers' defense and special teams.
Boddy-Calhoun's score made it 37-16, and the Gophers coasted to a decisive 51-23 win before a crowd of 44,217 at TCF Bank Stadium. In all, Minnesota's defense broke up nine pass attempts, blocked two other passes and came up with two interceptions.
Jones accounted for 149 return yards in the game, with 134 yards on kickoff returns and one punt return for 15 yards. The returns shaped the course of the second-half surge, as Minnesota outscored the Rebels, 35-10, after the intermission.
By athletic communications assistant Michael Molde
Sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson made his eighth career start for the Golden Gophers on Thursday night, helping to propel Minnesota to its highest point total ever at TCF Bank Stadium.
The Gophers turned in a very successful debut to the 2013 season, soundly defeating UNLV, 51-23, before a crowd of 44,217. Nelson completed 10-of-22 pass attempts for 99 yards and a touchdown, while also leading the Gophers with 12 rushing attempts for 83 yards and two TDs.
The rushing touchdowns were the first of his brief career, and the rushing total also topped his previous best of 67 yards during his first-ever collegiate game at Wisconsin last fall. With the speedy Nelson utilizing his feet, he helped Minnesota sustain drives, going 8-of-14 on third-down conversions.
Nelson gave Minnesota its first lead of the game, breaking free for a 48-yard run up the middle just 1:15 into the second quarter. Just seconds before halftime, he helped the Gophers retake the lead, 16-13, by lofting a touchdown pass to freshman tight end Maxx Williams with 0:18 remaining before the break.
"We knew we had to score at the end of the half. In practice, we worked a lot on the two-minute drill and I think tonight we executed it very well," Nelson said. "When we practice against our own defense, we have a tough time scoring on them in two minutes. I think we did a really great job finishing off the drive the way we wanted to."
In the second half, Minnesota received a boost from its defense and special teams, which combined for three touchdowns to break the game open, and Nelson added his second rushing touchdown midway through the final stanza to give the Gophers a 44-16 lead before giving way to redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner.
In limited minutes, Leidner made his mark, as well. The 6-foot-4, 233-pounder rushed three times for 25 yards and the team's final score of the game, plowing his way into the end zone for a four-yard TD run with 0:42 left.
It was an impressive performance from the Gophers' top two signal-callers, as they limited mistakes and displayed the type of run-pass threats that have been typical in head coach Jerry Kill's offenses.
Nelson's second pass of the game, a long heave down the Minnesota sideline, was intercepted at the 15 yard line. But he was able to avoid any further turnovers, while also directing a Minnesota offense that wasn't whistled for a penalty until the fourth quarter. The Gophers ended their season-opener with just one penalty for five yards.
"I think Philip, just by watching, has a lot of confidence, and the one pick he threw could go either way," head coach Jerry Kill said.
Overall, it was a heck of a start to the season for the Gophers' highly-touted QB from Mankato West High School, and it will give next week's opponent, New Mexico State, lots to prepare for.
One day more. Tomorrow is the day when Gopher football season truly begins. While you're waiting, here is one final countdown blog. Tutu Atwell and Ernie Wheelwright each wore No. 1 at Minnesota, and they will bring us down the final stretch until kickoff.
Atwell set Minnesota receiving records with 171 career receptions (now third) for 2,640 yards (now third). His 62 receptions in 1996 were a record at the time. That season, he scored a game-winning touchdown against Ball State.
As a senior in 1997, Atwell led the Big Ten with 2,073 all-purpose yards. One of his most memorable games came against Iowa State that year. He accounted for 349 all-purpose yards, with two kick return touchdowns and a receiving touchdown:
Over his career, Atwell put together a string of 34 consecutive games with a reception. He signed with the Detroit Lions as a free agent in 1998. Atwell did not spend long in the NFL, but his name is still all over the Gopher record books.
Wheelwright is one of the few receivers who has surpassed some of Atwell's numbers. He made an immediate impact as a freshman in 2004. He set Minnesota freshman receiving records for yardage (654) and touchdowns (7), which still stand. Rivals.com named him to its Freshman All-American Second Team.
Wheelwright has Minnesota's second-most receiving touchdowns with 26. From 2006 into 2007, he caught a touchdown pass in seven consecutive games. The streak included a 37-yard TD against Michigan State and a 64-yard TD against Iowa, both wins.
In 2007, Wheelwright was the second receiver behind Eric Decker with 775 yards on 66 catches, including nine touchdowns. He hauled in a career-high three TDs against Northwestern. In all, he had six multiple-touchdown games in his career. Wheelwright signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2008 before ending up in the CFL.
Bonus reading: Wheelwright had to earn the No. 1 jersey
Gophers look to beat the heat (Pioneer Press), which could be extreme (ESPN1500), and the Rebels (GopherSports)
Ra'Shede Hageman's journey (Star Tribune)
Brock Vereen's family (Pioneer Press) will be there to watch him take on his parents' alma mater (FSN)
Teammates as roommates (Pioneer Press)
Look for the Gophers to run the ball (FSN)
Middle linebacker position getting settled (Star Tribune), with Lynn and Wilson both likely to play (ESPN1500)
"More seasoned" Gophers ready to get on the field (FSN)
Gophers prepared to go deep into lineup on Thursday (Star Tribune)
Football team a "compelling bunch" (Star Tribune)
Athletes vs. Epilepsy looks forward to working with Kill (Pioneer Press)
We're almost there. Just two days until the Gophers open their football season. Former No. 2 Jack Brewer represents those two days.
Brewer transferred to Minnesota after one season at SMU. During his time in the Maroon and Gold, he switched back and forth between offense and defense several times. Brewer played mainly safety during his redshirt sophomore season in 1999 before going back to wide receiver. He caught 22 passes for 280 yards as a junior.
As a senior in 2001, Brewer was once again a safety. Despite all the position changes, he put together an outstanding season. Brewer led the Big Ten with 155 tackles, 89 of them solo. He was named to the All-Big Ten First Team by the media.
Brewer spent time with the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Giants, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL. Since then, he has become successful off the field. Brewer put his Minnesota bachelor's and master's degrees to use, founding his own advisory and banking firm called the Brewer Group.
He is heavily involved in philanthropic work through the Brewer Group's Jack Brewer Foundation. In 2009, he received a Congressional Certificate for JBF's work in Malawi.
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