Badgers Keep Axe With 41-34 Victory at Metrodome
Gopher freshman Adam Weber set season passing records for the second straight week but the Badgers kept Paul Bunyan’s Axe with a 41-34 victory over Minnesota Saturday afternoon at the Metrodome. Weber finished with 352 yards passing, giving him 2,895 for the season and putting him atop the Gopher single-season passing list. Weber also threw for three touchdowns, giving him a school-record 24 on the season. Wisconsin was led by freshman tailback Zach Brown, who rushed for 256 yards and two touchdowns.
Wisconsin got on the board first on a 29-yard field goal by Taylor Mehlhaff to go up 3-0 at the 11:32 mark. Mehlhaff’s field goal capped off an 11-play 53-yard drive by the Badgers.
Minnesota came right back with a 47-yard field goal by Joel Monroe at the 5:27 mark of the first quarter to tie the game at 3-3. The Golden Gophers got the field goal after 10-play, 59-yard drive. Minnesota picked up all 59 yards of the drive on the ground, with Weber rushing for 48 yards.
The Golden Gophers took the lead at 10-3 lead on a 22-yard touchdown reception by Eric Decker with 14:56 remaining in the second quarter. Decker’s touchdown wrapped up a seven-play, 54-yard scoring drive for Minnesota. The Golden Gophers had a fourth-down-and-one on the Wisconsin 27-yard line and kept the drive alive on a five-yard run by senior Justin Valentine. Weber and Decker hooked up for the touchdown on the next play.
On the first play of Wisconsin’s next drive, Kyle Theret stepped in front of Tyler Donovan’s pass and returned the interception 10 yards to start the Golden Gophers at the Badger 28-yard line. On second-and-14 from the Wisconsin 32-yard line, Jack Simmons caught a 16-yard pass for a first down. The Golden Gophers got down to the Badger seven-yard line, before settling for a Monroe 24-yard field goal to go up 13-3 at the 12:10 mark of the second quarter.
Wisconsin marched the ball down to the Golden Gopher 22-yard line, due in large part to a 64-yard run by Zach Brown. However, the Badgers came up empty when Mehlhaff missed a 39-yard field goal with 9:19 remaining in the half.
Minnesota drove the ball back into Wisconsin territory on its next drive, before Badger defensive back Shane Carter intercepted a Weber pass at the Wisconsin 25-yard line to halt the Minnesota drive.
The Badgers cut the Golden Gophers lead to 13-10 with 1:59 remaining in the half, when Donovan charged in on an eight-yard touchdown run. Wisconsin’s 10-play, 70-yard scoring drive was ignited by a 24-yard reception by Travis Beckum that brought the Badgers down to the Minnesota 23-yard line.
After the Golden Gophers went out in three plays on their next drive, Wisconsin got the ball back on Minnesota’s 26-yard line after a 51-yard punt return by David Gilreath. Minnesota pushed Wisconsin back to the 28-yard line, and Mehlhaff saw his kick bounce off the right upright to end the first half.
The Badgers reclaimed the lead at 17-13 when Zach Brown ran in for a 16-yard touchdown with 12:31 remaining in the third quarter. Wisconsin was set up in good field position when Gilreath had 57-yard punt return to the Golden Gopher 18-yard line.
Wisconsin added a 20-yard field goal by Mehlhaff to go up 20-13 with 5:48 remaining in the third quarter. The Badgers started the drive at their own 10-yard line. Wisconsin got the bulk of its yards on back-to-back plays. On second-and-seven from the Wisconsin 28-yard line, Garrett Graham caught a 22-yard pass to reach midfield. Beckum followed with a 30-yard reception to get it to the Minnesota 20-yard line. After Wisconsin got to the Golden Gopher 2-yard line on a Brown eight-yard run, Minnesota halted the Badger drive and limited them to a field goal.
Minnesota tied the game at 20 with 1:51 left in the third quarter on a two-yard touchdown run by Duane Bennett, capping a 10-play, 79-yard drive by the Golden Gophers. Minnesota had the ball at third-and-12 from its own 16-yard line, when Decker caught an 18-yard pass for a first down. Decker followed with a 27 and a 25-yard reception to get Minnesota to the Badger 11-yard line.
The Golden Gophers had the ball at the 7-yard line at third-and-6, but got a first down when Wisconsin was called for defensive holding. Two plays later, the Badgers committed pass interference to bring it to the 2-yard line. Bennett punched in the game-tying touchdown two plays later.
The score didn’t stay tied long as Brown broke off a 60-yard run for the Badgers down to the Gopher three-yard line. Three plays later fullback Bill Rentmeester punched the ball over the goal line from a yard out to give Wisconsin a 27-20 lead.
Wisconsin got the ball back following a failed fake punt by the Gophers Justin Kucek and drove 49 yards in four plays, capped off by a Donovan to Beckum 16-yard touchdown to make the score 34-20 Badgers.
Weber hooked up with Ernie Wheelwright four times for 66 yards on the ensuing drive as Minnesota got back to within a touchdown, 34-27, thanks to a 10-play, 79-yard drive. The drive was concluded when Weber found Decker in the end zone from four yards out, giving the sophomore his ninth touchdown catch of the season.
The Gophers held the Badgers to three yards on the next possession, forcing them to punt from their own 23-yard line. Gopher freshman Harold Howell fumbled the punt, however, giving Wisconsin the ball on the Minnesota 15-yard line. Two plays later, Brown reached the end zone for the second time giving the Badgers a 41-27 lead.
The ball bounced the Gophers way on the next possession as a Weber pass was tipped by receiver Marcus Sherels into the hands of teammate Ralph Spry that resulted in a 71-yard reception with 4:37 remaining in the fourth quarter, pulling the Gophers to within a touchdown again at 41-34.
Minnesota had one final attempt to tie the score after forcing a Badger punt with 1:25 remaining but a Weber interception ended a Gopher comeback attempt. Minnesota finishes the 2007 season with a 1-10 record, including 0-8 in the Big Ten.