Recap: Wisconsin vs. Minnesota
Madison, WI (SportsNetwork.com) - The Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe had a lot more riding on it this season.
The result, however, remained the same.
Melvin Gordon carried the ball 29 times for 151 yards with two total touchdowns as No. 14 Wisconsin defeated 22nd-ranked Minnesota 34-24 on Saturday afternoon to clinch the Big Ten West.
The Badgers (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten), who erased a 14-point second quarter deficit by ripping off 24 straight points to win their 11th straight meeting against the Golden Gophers, will face Ohio State in the Big Ten title game next Saturday night.
The Buckeyes will be without their standout quarterback J.T. Barrett, who left Saturday's game against Michigan on a cart after suffering a broken ankle on the first play of the fourth quarter.
"Once we were able to settle down, we produced a couple drives," Badgers coach Gary Andersen said. "Offense executed very well."
Wisconsin received a scare late in the fourth when Gordon grabbed his right ankle and limped off the field following a 6-yard run with about three minutes left.
"I think he should be just fine," Andersen said.
Gordon posted a receiving score and his other on the ground for Wisconsin, which has won seven consecutive games.
Gordon surpassed former Badger Ron Dayne for the Big Ten single-season rushing yards record in the first quarter. He now has 2,260 rushing yards on the year.
Alex Erickson caught five passes for 160 yards, while Joel Stave completed 11- of-18 passes for 215 yards with two touchdowns in the triumph. Corey Clement, who came in with just 44 yards in his last three games, put up 89 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
David Cobb tallied 118 yards and a score on 25 totes for Minnesota (8-4, 5-3), which dropped three of its last five games to close the regular season.
"We'll bounce back" Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. "There aren't any happy about the axe."
Mitch Leidner was 5-of-18 for 95 yards and added 54 yards and two scores on the ground in defeat.
The Gophers haven't beaten Wisconsin since 2003.
The Badgers took their first lead with Gordon on the sideline taking a breather at the 6:20 mark of the third. Clement burst up the middle for a 28- yard score to cap a seven-play, 80-yard drive and make it 20-17.
Gordon broke off a 24-yard run and Clement added a 31-yarder two plays later before Gordon plunged in from a yard out for a 27-17 cushion early in the fourth.
On Minnesota's ensuing sequence, Leidner hit a wide open Maxx Williams over the middle on a hide route and he ran down the right sideline for a 53-yard gain. The reception set up Leidner's 2-yard, zone-read keeper two snaps later to cut the gap to 27-24.
Wisconsin put the game away on its next touch.
Erickson scampered for 31 yards along the left sideline on a wide receiver screen and Stave fired a 17-yard TD strike to Robert Wheelwright on a skinny post for his first catch of the year. The reception made it 34-24 with 4:41 to play.
The Badgers then forced a Golden Gophers three-and-out and ran 2:10 off the clock. Minnesota got the ball back with 1:17 remaining, but Leidner's 4th- and-10 pass fell incomplete to seal the outcome.
Earlier, the Gophers raced out to a 17-3 advantage.
Minnesota punted after failing to pick up a first down on the opening possession of the game, but Jack Lynn forced a fumble on Kenzel Doe's return and Eric Murray recovered the ball at the 13.
Leidner kept it off the left edge two plays later for the game's first score.
Rafael Gaglianone nailed a 24-yard field goal on Wisconsin's first sequence, but Cobb's 40-yard TD run a few possessions later made it 14-3 late in the first.
Ryan Santoso split the uprights from 37 yards out early in the second for Minnesota's 14-point cushion.
Stave stepped up in the pocket and found Gordon in the front part of the end zone for a 4-yard score on a 3rd-and-goal and Gaglianone added a 38-yard field goal on the final play of the half to trim the deficit to 17-13 heading into the break.Game Notes
Wisconsin outgained Minnesota 448-272 ... The Badgers were 5-of-12 on third
down, while the Gophers finished 5-of-15 ... Minnesota was attempting to go
6-2 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1973.