Game Coverage: Wisconsin Holds On to the Axe

Stick with Badger Nation's drive blog for all the information! It certainly wasn't easy, especially after a Zach Brown fumble was returned 88 yards for a Gopher touchdown to cut the lead to three. But the Badgers defense steps up and allowed Wisconsin to remain unbeaten on the season, beating Minnesota.

Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0) at Minnesota (3-1, 1-0)

MINNEAPOLIS - On a cold, blistery October day, John Clay heated up the Badgers in a big way, spoiling Minnesota's stadium party.

The sophomore running back scored three Wisconsin touchdowns and set up another by pounding the football through a Minnesota defensive line that couldn't find an answer.

The result was Wisconsin winning 31-28 in the 119th border battle, retaining the Paul Bunyan Axe for a sixth straight year and 13 of 15 years.

The Badgers led 24-13, but a Zach Brown fumble was returned 88 yards for a touchdown with less than six minutes to go, forcing the Badgers to have to sweat it out, especially after the two teams traded touchdowns and Minnesota got the ball back with 103 seconds left.

But the Badgers defense comes through, forcing an Adam Weber fumble, the third UW turnover of the game, to seal the victory.

The Badgers moves to 5-0, 2-0 Big Ten, while the Gophers (3-2, 1-1) lose six straight games to Wisconsin for only the third time in school history.

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Head Coach Bret Bielema

QB Scott Tolzien

S Jay Valai

LG John Moffitt

RB John Clay

CB Aaron Henry

First Half

First Quarter

7-0 Wisconsin

9 plays, 59 yards, 4:23 TOP, 9:04 left

John Clay 2-yard run (Phil Welch kick)

Key Play: After Chris Maragos forced a fumble, giving UW prime field position, the Badger offense marches right down the field, including a solid 15-yard run by Zach Brown between the tackles.

7-3 Wisconsin

12 plays, 56 yards, 6:10 TOP, 2:54 left

FG Eric Ellestad 28

Key Play: With Wisconsin throwing a blitz, Adam Weber correctly read the coverage and hit his go-to guy, Eric Decker, on a slot route for a 15-yard gain down to 30-yard line.

10-7 Minnesota

2 plays, 11 yards, :41 TOP, 1:26 left

Eric Decker 11-yard pass from Adam Weber (Ellestad kick)

Key Play: Minnesota linebacker Nate Triplett steps in front of a Scott Tolzien pass intended for Nick Toon and returned it to the Gophers 10-yard line. Triplett made a good break on the ball, but it was clear that Tolzien didn't see him.

Second Quarter


13 plays, 56 yards, 4:59 TOP, 11:27 left

FG Phil Welch 39

Key Play: On third-and-six, Scott Tolzien patiently stayed in the pocket and hit Maurice Moore on a crossing route for nine yards.

13-10 Minnesota

12 plays, 76 yards, 5:35 TOP, 2:26 left

FG Eric Ellestad 20

Key Play: Adam Weber underthrew Eric Decker in one-on-one coverage, but that's just how Decker likes it. Decker was able to adjust on the pass and make a 35-yard catch on coverage from Devin Smith, setting Minnesota up at the 30.

Second Half

Third Quarter

17-13 Wisconsin

9 plays, 70 yards, 3:39 TOP, 4:33 left

John Clay 1-yard run (Phil Welch kick)

Key Play: The Gophers threw everything they had at Tolzien on a third-down blitz, but Garrett Graham was wide open in the middle of the field. Graham took the mini-screen and went 18 yards, setting UW up inside the 20-yard line.

Fourth Quarter

24-13 Wisconsin

13 plays, 85 yards, 6:03 TOP, 11:51 left

Lance Kendricks 5-yard pass from Scott Tolzien (Welch kick)

Key Play: John Clay is pounding the football down the throats of the Minnesota defense. On the second play of the quarter, Clay ran right through the heart of the offensive line for 28 yards, giving UW a first down at the Minnesota 22. For the drive, Clay had nine carries for 77 yards.

24-13 Wisconsin

13 plays, 85 yards, 6:03 TOP, 11:51 left

Lance Kendricks 5-yard pass from Scott Tolzien (Welch kick)

Key Play: Tolzien and his tight ends have found a connection. On third down, Tolzien comes up big again, hitting Lance Kendricks on a sideline-slant route for 25 yards, getting UW down to the 20-yard line.

24-21 Wisconsin

Marcus Sherals 88-yard fumble recovery (Da'Jon McKnight from Weber)

Key Play: Huge fumble by Zach Borwn, who coughed up the football and was returned 88 yards by Marcus Sherals. Brown says he was down, but the ball was coming out as Brown hit the ground, his third straight game with a fumble.

31-21 Wisconsin

8 plays, 74 yards, 3:50 TOP, 3:00 left

Clay 1-yard run (Welch kick)

Key Play: After rushing three straight times up the middle, Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst rolls the dice and pays off big. Tolzien runs the naked bootleg and goes 47 yards down to the five-yard line.

31-28 Wisconsin

3 plays, 80 yards, :47 TOP, 2:13 left

Duane Bennett 1-yard run (Ellestad kick)

Key Play: Quick strikes by Weber to Decker and Nick Tow-Arnett got Minnesota down to the one-yard line, which they punched in for the score.

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