COURTESY UW SPORTS INFORMATION
Badger sophomore Anthony Davis racked up 301 yards and a school record-tying five touchdowns on 45 carries Saturday as Wisconsin defeated Big Ten rival Minnesota 49-31 to become bowl eligible and regain Paul Bunyan's Axe.
"Obviously, I'm very pleased with the victory, very proud of how our football team battled. We made it a big game, put a lot of emphasis on it and I thought we responded," Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez said.
"The kids are ecstatic. It was an important game for them and they had a little fun with the axe. And we talked about that, that's part of college football, enjoying the celebration of a victory, enjoying the axe with your teammates and coming down and having a little fun in the locker room and then going back out and enjoying the fifth quarter. The guys are really excited."
In front of a crowd of 78,843 at Camp Randall Stadium, fellow UW sophomore Jim Leonhard picked off two interceptions to help Badger quarterback Brooks Bollinger stage a fourth-quarter comeback win in the signal caller's final home game wearing the cardinal and white.
Leonhard's two picks against the Gophers give him a UW school-record 10 for the season and tie for third-most in a season in Big Ten history. The Tony, Wis., native also returned two Minnesota punts for 24 yards allowing him to surpass Nick Davis' school record for punt return yards with 438 this season. Davis set the previous record with 427 punt return yards in 1998.
Minnesota opened up scoring in the game that would see five lead changes. Kicker Dan Nystrom put the Gophers ahead 3-0 after completing a 39-yard field goal halfway through the first quarter. Three minutes later, Davis scored his first touchdown of the day on a four-yard run at 3:18. UW kicker Mike Allen cleared the uprights on the extra point, the first of seven during Saturday's game, for the 7-3 Badger advantage.
Early in the second quarter, Wisconsin wide receiver Darrin Charles posted his first TD catch of the season on a 12-yard reception following a second Nystrom field goal. Down by eight points, Minnesota quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq led the Gophers 87 yards down field looking to tie the game.
UM running back Terry Jackson II capped the drive on a one-yard touchdown run to set up teammate Ben Utecht's pass completion for two extra-points to tie the game. The Badgers regained the lead 21-14 to enter the halftime break on a one-yard scamper by Davis with three seconds left.
After tying the game in the first drive of the third quarter, Minnesota took advantage of a botched punt by the Badger offense to take the 24-21 lead with a field goal at 8:13. However, a timely 25-yard scoring run by Davis brought the lead back to the Badgers to end the quarter 28-24.
With just 15 minutes left to gain bowl eligibility, a win for UW seemed questionable after Abdul-Khaliq connected with Tony Patterson on a 42-yard pass to the Wisconsin three-yard line to set up the eventual two-yard scoring reception by UM's Thomas Tapeh. The Gophers took a 31-28 lead, but it would be Minnesota's last.
Wisconsin rattled off the final 12 minutes by continuously pounding the Gophers with Davis runs. UW recaptured the lead on Bollinger's lone touchdown run of the game, before Davis sealed the lead with his last two touchdown runs, including a career-setting 71-yard run for the young back. Leonhard's two late interceptions effectively shutdown the UM offense to ensure the victory and Wisconsin's 7-6 winning season.
Joining Davis in his 100-plus yard game, Bollinger totaled 112 yards rushing on 18 carries, in addition to six passes for 134 yards. It was the fourth time in Bollinger's career that he surpassed 100 yards on the ground. Davis' five touchdown runs matched Billy Marek's total against Minnesota in 1974 and his 301 yards was the third-most by a Badger in school history.
Wisconsin's 49 points against the Gophers Saturday also marked the most points scored by the Badgers since a 59-0 win over Indiana Oct. 16, 1999.
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