Gophers Game Microcosm of Badgers' Season

The Badgers' win against the Gophers was just a mini-version of Wisconsin's entire season, battling injuries and usually pulling out a win.

Just in case anyone missed the first 11 games of Wisconsin's season, the Badgers conveniently battled through a mini-version of their year during a 41-34 win at Minnesota in both teams' regular-season finale.

The Badgers dealt with several injuries, suffered through first-half struggles, authored a second-half rally and received a terrific rushing performance.

True freshman tailback Zach Brown, playing because starter P.J. Hill stayed home with his bad left leg, piled up 29 carries for 250 yards and two scores as the Badgers overcame a 10-point first-half deficit to earn Paul Bunyan's Axe.

"My line and the fullbacks and the receivers did a great job getting on top of their men," Brown said in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "The rest is history."

Brown's yardage ranked as the 10th-best single-game performance in Wisconsin annals — and the fourth-best for a freshman.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Donovan started the game despite a bruised throwing hand. He suffered an injury to his non-throwing hand that knocked him out for part of the first half, but he returned to spearhead the Badgers' second-half rally.

"Tyler is just a tremendously gifted athlete who is tough (and) perseveres," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said in the Journal Sentinel. "Much like our team."

The Badgers, who finished 9-3 overall and 5-3 in the league, await their bowl assignment. They're eligible to go as high as the Capital One Bowl, but that won't happen because they've gone there the past two years.

Wisconsin likely will fight with Penn State and Michigan for the Big Ten's spots in the Outback and Alamo bowls.

NOTES

GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Zach Brown — What the heck does Wisconsin do when P.J. Hill regains his health? Brown, a true freshman, produced 250 yards and two touchdowns in the Badgers' 41-34 win at Minnesota. It's Brown's second honor in as many weeks.

KEEP AN EYE ON: KR David Gilreath — Next year he'll get a chance to catch more passes. For now, the freshman from Minnesota will settle for being a returning savant. He returned two punts for 107 yards and six kicks for 119 yards to give Wisconsin several short fields.

LOOKING GOOD: One week after carrying 27 times for 108 yards and two scores, RB Zach Brown outdid himself against Minnesota as he carried a career-high 29 times for a career-high 250 yards and two scores.

TE Travis Beckum — Caught five passes for 89 yards despite missing nearly one quarter with an injury. Beckum could well become the Mackey Award winner as the nation's top tight end.

DE Matt Shaughnessy — Piled up a team-high nine tackles as the Badgers withstood a 501-yard Minnesota onslaught.

STILL NEEDS WORK: K Taylor Mehlhaff — Has been virtually automatic for the last two years, but he missed attempts of 39 and 46 yards in the climate-controlled Metrodome on Saturday.

CB Jack Ikegwuonu — Rarely gets beat, but Minnesota's Eric Decker outdueled Ikegwuonu for two touchdowns.

LB Jonathan Casillas — Failed in his pantomimed attempt to "chop down" a Minnesota goal post as Wisconsin enjoyed its postgame celebration with Paul Bunyan's Axe.

ROSTER REPORT:

QB Tyler Donovan, already playing a badly bruised throwing hand, suffered either a bruise or a break of his left hand during the Nov. 17 game against Minnesota. Donovan underwent X-rays at halftime, but missed just two minutes overall.

TE Travis Beckum injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter. His status for a bowl is uncertain.

TB P.J. Hill didn't travel as his bruised leg didn't look good enough during practice to even warrant going to the game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We didn't play very well and thus you had a close game. But I really think our guys for four quarters came through." — Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema summing up the Minnesota game, if not the entire season, for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


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