The roads leading from Minneapolis to Madison and back have been traveled with sullen expressions for the Gophers – five consecutive years and five consecutive thuds of Paul Bunyan’s Axe through their figurative hearts. Wisconsin has dominated the series over Minnesota for half a decade and need to file today’s game under the win column to maintain momentum and keep the signs pointed toward a bowl engagement.
Wide receiver Nick Davis was instrumental in aiding the Badger cause, but the Gophers were pinned in a similar situation so when they tied the game in the second half at twenty, Badger fans realized that Minnesota was as serious about their season’s concluding destination as well. This stunning autumn day marked my last game as a UW student and I was in no mood to have the Gophers exorcise their demons today and steal the coveted Axe trophy from Madison.
Thankfully, neither were the Badgers. Following Minnesota’s late resurgence, Wisconsin averted the danger by chopping away at the opposing defense. Quarterback Brooks Bollinger led the charge with a fifty-yard pass to Chris Chambers ending at the one-yard line. I was wearing an old jersey with Chris Chambers’s number on it so this play gave my attire some purpose. Bollinger finished it off with a dive over the threshold that reclaimed Wisconsin’s lead. From there, a Gopher fumble led to an Eddie Faukner touchdown for the Badgers. Mike Echols’s interception return for a touchdown with under four minutes remaining slammed the door on this contest and gave the Badger seniors (both players and me) a final win in Camp Randall to savor.
Paul Bunyan’s Axe was toted around the stadium and would remain in Madison another year. Minnesota’s bowl outlook took a turn in a downward direction, while Wisconsin managed to string two wins together for the first time in two months providing hope for those who stored away some mad money for a football excursion in early winter. The Gophers did squeeze into the Micron PC Bowl, but squandered the game against NC State. With wins over Indiana and Hawaii to conclude the season, the Badgers were accepted to play in the respected Sun Bowl against a scrappy UCLA team. Wisconsin pulled out a 21-20 triumph and took home another bowl trophy to accompany the Axe.