Badger Seniors Want To End Undefeated

Gabe Carimi, a native of Wisconsin, cannot even imagine losing Paul Bunyan's Axe in his final season in Madison.

MADISON — Seven seniors have been in the Wisconsin football program for five seasons — Gabe Carimi, Lance Kendricks, John Moffitt, Culmer St. Jean, Niles Brinkley, Jay Valai and Scott Tolzien.

For five years they have walked past Paul Bunyan's Axe in the locker room. They don't know what it looks like or feels like to have the Axe missing.

"It means a lot," Moffitt said. "It is my senior year and I don't even want to think about losing it. It is a great game, a game I didn't know much about coming here [Moffitt is from Connecticut], but I have totally bought into the game. It is a great rivalry, I love playing in it."

"This is the one game a year I cannot lose," Carimi added. "Growing up a Badgers fan. [Laughs} You cannot lose to Minnesota. I don't even think about the possibility."

Despite Minnesota stuck in a down cycle for the past few seasons, the games themselves have remained competitive as ever.

With the Gophers entering the weekend at 1-4, it would appear the talent gap will be significant once again. Of course, as the cliché goes, all of that stuff get's thrown out in a rivalry game.

Wisconsin needed shut down defense on the game's final drive last season, with Chris Borland and O'Brien Schofield wreaking havoc in the backfield to prevent the Gophers from a final field goal try. In 2008 the win required a Niles Brinkley interception on the final Minnesota drive of the game to clinch the victory and Minnesota native Isaac Anderson hauled in six catches for 114 yards. Of the past three wins, the margins of victory have been three points, three points and seven points.

With Minnesota's season dwindling before their eyes, Gopher players likely view this game as one way of salvaging it from being a total loss.

"It has always been a tough game," Moffitt said. "Every year since my freshman year it has been a battle. You always have to respect them and you always have to play hard. I think both teams understand and you don't care about records or anything else. You are playing for the Axe."

"What has been there record the past few years? We are just winning by three and four, a touchdown or less every single time, just really close close games. You can throw out all of the other stuff and just say this is a rivalry game."

With eight players on the team from Minnesota, the rivalry has important recruiting ties as well. The Badgers nabbed defensive tackle Beau Allen from under Minnesota last season, and have gotten high-profile recruits such as David Gilreath in recent year's as well.

Stretching the winning streak to six games over Minnesota can only help that recruiting trail.

"We have a lot of Minnesota guys here and it is just as important to those guys as it is to somebody from Wisconsin like myself," Kendricks said. "It is the longest rivalry game, and that means something."

During practice in the week leading up the Battle, the coaches haul the Axe out of its case and display the trophy on the field.

Coaches fill the freshman in on the importance of the rivalry, and remind some of the upperclassmen. It is not just a game alumni get excited for.

"Every time this week comes around the coaches make sure to preach the history about and remind us how important it is," Kendricks said.

"It is just a reminder of the tradition that has been set here since 1890 or something. It would be so weird not to see it there."

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