MADISON, Wis. – Less than a half hour after Wisconsin beat Purdue 62-17 at Camp Randall, a sign in the Badgers’ weight room was already counting down the time until their next game, with a "Beat Minnesota" sign installed below the timer. The sign reflected the almost immediate shift in focus from the Boilermakers to the archrival Gophers.
"This week’s all about the Axe," Bret Bielema said in his post-game press conference. "It’s all about the opportunity to go on the road, do something that we haven’t been able to do in our last two opportunities – to win a Big Ten game on the road."
After losing two road games to Michigan State and Ohio State, the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe takes on even more meaning for the Badgers, who need to win the rest of their games to have a shot at playing in the inaugural Big Ten championship game.
"As we all know this is the longest rivalry in college football, against a team that’s playing very good," Bielema said. "[It’s] a tremendous challenge in front of us, and one I know we’re excited to go into."
Offensive lineman Travis Frederick told reporters after the game that playing for the Axe will help the players have extra focus during the week of practice before the game.
"[The Axe] is something we always put a big focus on during the week," Frederick said. "We have meetings and learn about the history of it. For a lot of the freshmen coming in they don’t know about it. It’s something that we really can focus on and lean on during the week."
And while he’s not technically a freshman, quarterback Russell Wilson will be playing in his first (and probably only) rivalry game as a Badger, but Wilson seemed to have a good understanding of how important the game will be for both teams.
"It’s going to be huge for us," Wilson said. "It’s a big game for us, a big game for them, definitely important with all that history behind it, we have to make sure that we try to hold up our end, and play a great game."
Montee Ball’s Big Day
Wisconsin running back Montee Ball blew past Purdue on Saturday, racking up 223 rushing yards and scoring three touchdowns. The game put Ball over 1,000 yards on the season, a mark that eluded the junior tailback last season.
"It was very important [to me]," Ball said of passing the milestone, "Because I fell shy last year and I’m glad to see that I’ve jumped over that hurdle this year."
"Montee Ball ran awesome," Frederick said. "He always does, and that’s something that we love about him. He’s always running up and down the field."
Other offensive linemen were quick to praise the Badgers’ featured running back, including center Peter Konz.
"Montee did a great job," Konz said. "As much as it is us blocking up front, the rest of it is him. He did phenomenal [today] breaking tackles and pushing for the goal line. All those things, it was just him."
But Ball was quick to give some of the credit for his huge day back to the guys blocking in front of him.
"They did a great job today of making holes, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t let them down," Ball said.
News and Notes
-- Senior safety Aaron Henry left the game in the first half after suffering a right ankle injury, but even though he didn’t return to the game Bielema doesn’t think the injury will hold Henry out for an extended period.
"Aaron is negative on the X-Rays," Bielema said. "He thinks he’s going to be able to go on Tuesday’s practice, I’d doubt very much that he’s not ready to go [on Tuesday.]"
-- The Badgers moved up to No. 14 in the USA Today/Coaches’ Poll, and to No. 16 in the AP Poll after their win Saturday. The updated BCS standings will be released tonight on ESPN.
-- The Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe will have a 2:30 PM CST kickoff time, and will be shown on the Big Ten Network, according to a release from the Wisconsin Athletic Department.
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