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The Gophers can't get the Axe back at home and fall 31-21 to the Badgers

Minnesota can't get the Axe back at home and fall to the Badgers to end a tumultuous 2015 season, 31-21.

MINNEAPOLIS - A long, injury riddled season came to an end Saturday for Minnesota after failing to reclaim to the Axe at home, falling to a 5-7 record with a 31-21 loss to the arch-rival Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin was able to absolutely dominate Minnesota on the ground rushing the ball 62 times for 257 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Plus, they were able to control the game throughout with the time of possession of 40:35 to 19:25 in favor of the Badgers. 

The Gophers couldn't stop the Badgers running game in the first half as Wisconsin rushed for almost 200 ayrds on 35 carries and Minnesota couldn't contain Wisconsin on third down as well as the Badgers were 6-7. Wisconsin only had six passing attempts in the first half and they didn't need to throw the ball any more than that with all the success they were having on the ground. In total, the Badgers were able to run 20 more first half plays and ended the game with a total of 79-55.

On offense, Minnesota kept shooting themselves in the football and ended the game with a season-high of five turnovers. Key fumbles in the second quarter by quarterback Mitch Leidner and wide receiver KJ Maye really killed the Gophers as Wisconsin was able to capitalize on the nice field position and turn those into touchdowns to give themselves a 28-14 lead. Leidner on the day ending up with four of Minnesota's five turnovers with three interceptions and a fumble lost. 

"I think that we played awfully well in the first game against TCU and then from there, it's just been a weird season," Gophers head football coach Tracy Claeys said after the loss Saturday. "Injuries are a part of football and you can't use it as an excuse. We have just had a tremendous amount of them. Kids have missed several games. You always have a kid miss one game here or there, so after that, we never got a line up with our best football team or players. THat's not against the kids that lined up and played because they worked their tail ends off."

"Then you have to remember our schedule. To go on the road to those places and boy we just compete our butts off and have opportunities in the fourth quarter against some of the best teams in the country this year. We didn't move forward with the amount of wins and we didn't qualify for a bowl, but there is a hell of a lot of things I feel like we did do better. We will get our kids back and have a great offseason and we will continue to move forward."

News and Notes

  • Quarterback Mitch Leidner ends his season with totals of 218 completions for 2,478 yards and 13 touchdowns. His single-season completion total ranks third all-time (first among juniors), while his yardage total is ninth (fourth among juniors).
  • Leidner's career passing totals now stand at 383 completions in 692 attempts (55%) for 4,895 yards and 27 passing touchdowns. He has also rushed 326 times for 1,108 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns. Leidner's passing yardage and completions totals both rank seventh all-time at Minnesota, while his passing touchdowns mark is eighth. 
  • Wide receiver KJ Maye wound up his final season with a team-leading 65 catches for 706 yards and four touchdowns. Maye's reception total ranks fourth all-time on Minnesota's single-season list, while his yardage total ranks 20th. 
  • Maye finishes his career with 99 receptions for 1,123 yards (11.34 YPC) and five touchdowns. The reception total ranks 13th on Minnesota's all-time list, while yardage total ranks 22nd. 
  • Briean Boddy-Calhoun's interception today was the ninth of his career, which ties him for seventh all-time at Minnesota.
  • Minnesota three leading tacklers this season were safety Antonio Johnson with 99, linebacker Cody Poock with 95 and linebacker De'Vondre Campbell with 89.

By the numbers

257 - Number of rushing yards for the Badgers

53 - Rushing yards on the day for the Gophers.

62 - Number of carries Wisconsin had on the day

40:35 - The amount of time Wisconsin had the ball

19:25 - The amount of time Minnesota had the ball

94 - Number of total tackles for Minnesota

43 - Number of total tackles for Wisconsin

What's next

The season is likely over for the Gophers after a 5-7 season, but there is a silver of hope that they could get to a bowl with likely five open spots. Doesn't look likely, so Minnesota will likely spend the next few weeks recruiting and getting ready for a better 2016 campaign. 

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