There is no question how far the Gophers football program has come under head coach Jerry Kill in his three seasons. Riding a 4-game winning streak, the Gophers headed into their border battle with Wisconsin, a test some called the biggest game the program has played in over 50 years.
Despite their 20-7 loss to the Badgers, the Gophers proved that indeed they are on the right track and are closing the gap in the Big 10.
The longest ongoing rivalry in major college football saw Wisconsin capture Paul Bunyan's Axe for the 10th straight season with a dominating defensive performance that stymied the Gophers offense.
The Badgers jumped on the scoreboard first on a Jack Russell 31 yard field goal. That came on the heels of an impressive 40 yard run by Wisconsin running back James White that set up the score. White and the Badgers entered the game averaging over 300 yards per game on the ground and although White finished with 130 yards on 26 carries, the Gophers defense played tough and held Wisconsin well below their season average.
The lone touchdown for the Gophers came in the first quarter when Aaron Hill intercepted Joel Stave and ran 39 yards for the teams seventh non-offensive touchdown this season. The Badgers defense did the rest forcing three Gophers turnovers. Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland was dominant making 12 tackles and on one of the tackles forced a David Cobb fumble that led to a first half Badger touchdown.
Cobb finished with 73 yards on the ground putting him over 1,000 yards for the season but the rest of the offense struggled to get anything going. Philip Nelson finished just 7-for-23 for just 83 yards.
"There was a definitely a lack of rhythm on our part," Nelson said about the teams lack of offense. "Simply put, we didn't make enough plays as an offense. That just comes up to the players. That comes up to me. That comes up to everybody."
The prior two seasons, Kill watched as the Badgers steam rolled his teams to the tune of 80-26. With the win, Wisconsin evened the series 58-58-1.
The Gophers (8-3) finish the regular season next Saturday when they travel to Ann Arbor to face Michigan State.