The biggest game in more than a decade for the Gophers ended in defeat as Minnesota lost to the Wisconsin Badgers for the 10th straight year, 20-7.
The story of the game was Wisconsin’s defense that shut out Minnesota and held the Gophers to just 185 total yards of offense. Led by Philip Nelson, the Gophers did not get into the red zone until their final drive in the fourth quarter. Minnesota nevertheless failed to turn the opportunity into any points after turning the ball over on downs.
The only points for Minnesota was a pick six by senior linebacker Aaron Hill, who picked off Badgers quarterback Joel Stave in the second quarter and returned it for 39 yards. At the time, the score gave Minnesota a 7-3 lead.
The offensive woes were also supplemented by three lost fumbles, one each from Philip Nelson, Maxx Williams and David Cobb. Only Nelson’s fumble in the second quarter resulted in any points for Wisconsin, who themselves only had one turnover.
While it’s not an excuse for the fumbles, the frigid temperatures made handling the ball difficult as the two teams combined for five fumbles, not to mention several dropped passes.
In the first quarter, Minnesota receivers dropped three wide open throws from Nelson, who finished the game 7-of-23 for 83 yards and a quarterback rating of 60.7.
Wisconsin also stymied Cobb, who only had 68 yards rushing on 17 attempts, which ended his streak of four consecutive games with at least 100 yards on the ground.
For the Badgers, who were averaging more than 300 yards rushing, they were held to just 197 yards on the ground. Running back James White had 125 yards on 26 attempts and a touchdown, including a 49-yard rush in the first play of the game that set up Wisconsin’s opening drive field goal. Melvin Gordon added another 69 yards for the 9-2 Badgers, who will face Penn State next weekend in the regular season finale.
As for the Gophers, their Big Ten title dreams were dashed before the game started. With a record of 8-3 (4-3 in the conference), they’ll travel to East Lansing next weekend to play the Legends Division champions Michigan Spartans to finish out their regular season.
David Cobb has 1,010 yards rushing on the season and is the first Gopher to break 1,000 yards on the ground since Amir Pinnix did it in 2006.