MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The Badgers defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 42-13, for their second straight victory on Saturday. With the win, the No. 18 Badgers move their record to 4-2 in the B1G 10 Leaders Division and 8-2 overall.
After a Penn State loss earlier in the day, Wisconsin now trails Penn State by just one game for first place in their division. Now, the Wisconsin Badgers control their own destiny the rest of the season. If Wisconsin wins their final two games of the regular season, including the season finale against Penn State at Camp Randall, the Badgers will be crowned the 2011 Leaders Division Champions.
Montae Ball continues his unreal season, scoring three touchdowns and amping his TD total to 27 in 2011. Ball rushed for 166 yards on 23 carries, alongside two rushing scores. He also had one catch, which went for a 5-yard touchdown on the opening drive. Russell Wilson was 13-for-13 in the first half with three touchdown passes. He finished the game 16-for-17 for 178 passing yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
The Badgers took a little over eight minutes off the clock on their first drive of the game, going 71 yards in 14 plays for the score. Russell Wilson found Montae Ball out of the backfield for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Wisconsin took an early 7-0 lead over the Golden Gophers.
Following a three-and-out by Minnesota, the Badgers next drive would not take nearly as long. Wisconsin drove 51 yards on three plays for another touchdown. Montae Ball rushed in from 14 yards out to put Wisconsin up 14-0 before Minnesota’s second possession of the game.
The first play of the second quarter went for another Badgers touchdown. Russell Wilson found his favorite receiver Nick Toon from 9 yards out, putting the Badgers ahead of Minnesota 21-0 after the one play in the second quarter.
Minnesota finally put together a worthy drive of 13 plays for 60 yards, as they took a little over seven minutes on the possession. On fourth down and goal, Minnesota ran a fake field goal that went for a 6-yard touchdown run by kicker Jordan Wettstein. Ironically, he was too winded to kick the extra point and failed the attempt. The Gophers trailed Wisconsin, 28-6, with 7:41 left on the clock in the first half.
The Badgers had one final offensive possession with 2:14 on the clock, before the end of the second quarter. Russell Wilson led his mates 78 yards on five plays for the score, while taking 1:38 off the clock in the process. Wilson hooked up again with his prime target Nick Toon for a 17-yard TD pass and the receiver’s second TD of the half. Toon led all receivers in the game with eight catches for 100 yards and 2 scores. Wisconsin went to the locker room leading Minnesota 35-6 on the road. The Badgers were winless on the road before Saturday’s contest. (Record Breakdown: Home 6-0, Road 1-2, Neutral 1-0)
Duane Bennett opened the second half with a 96-yard kick return for a touchdown. It was the second special teams score of the day for Minnesota, as their offense was shutout in the contest. The Gophers showed signs of hope as they trailed Wisconsin, 35-13, with 14:16 remaining in the third quarter.
Wisconsin answered back with a clock-eating six minute drive, taking the Badgers 11 plays to punch it into the endzone. Russell Wilson found his trustworthy tight end, Jacob Pedersen, in the back of the endzone after a perfectly executed play action fake. The Golden Gophers were looking up at a 42-13 deficit during the midpoint of the third quarter and it would only get worse from there for their offense. Neither team would score again on Saturday from Minneapolis.
On a side note, Badgers top receiver Jared Abbrederis left the game in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury. I will keep you posted, once his status is updated.
With the huge victory, the Badgers are once again in control of their own destiny. Next week, Wisconsin (8-2, 4-2) will go on the road once again to take on a beaten and bruised Illinois team in Champaign. The Illini have had an atrocious last month, after starting the season 6-0. They will look to rebound after a destructive loss to Michigan on Saturday afternoon. Wisconsin needs to win their next two games to play in the B1G 10 Conference Championship Game on December 3 in Indianapolis.