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Welcome to AXE WEEK: A primer on Wisconsin’s 14-game winning streak vs. Minnesota

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CHOP! CHOP! CHOP! CHOP! CHOP! CHOP!

The page has been turned after Wisconsin’s 47–44 triple-overtime win over Purdue, with all attention now paid to the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The goal this week, of course: retain Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the 15th straight year (after beating Purdue for a 13th consecutive time last weekend).

If UW defeats Minnesota on Saturday—after already defeating Iowa and Nebraska—it will again capture all of its trophy games during the regular season. The current winning streak for trophy games against the Hawkeyes, Gophers, and Huskers stands at 10 heading into this weekend’s match-up. Going back to 2010, 19 of the last 20 of these rivalry games have been won by the Badgers.

Wisconsin already released a hype video on Sunday. No matter what the records are between the programs, this game means something to both.

Let’s whet the appetite, shall we?

All-time series

  • After its 31–10 win up at TCF Bank Stadium last year, Wisconsin now leads the all-time series 60–59–8. Saturday will be the 128th meeting between the two programs.
  • At home, Wisconsin is 34–22–6; at Minneapolis, Wisconsin has fared worse in going 26–37–2.

Last time at Camp Randall Stadium

Wisconsin overcame a 17–7 halftime deficit, and thanks to Mitch Leidner’s four interceptions—two in a critical fourth quarter—the Badgers pulled away late in a 31–17 win in 2016. Corey Clement ran for 100 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns, while Jazz Peavy pulled off a 71-yard run on the go-ahead touchdown series to help the Badgers retain the Axe for the 13th straight year.

Last season

The Badgers rudely welcomed P.J. Fleck to the rivalry, shutting out his Gophers 31–0 in Minneapolis to clinch their undefeated regular season. Minnesota could only muster 133 yards and eight first downs in the loss, while then-freshman running back Jonathan Taylor gained 149 yards on 20 carries with a 53-yard touchdown.

A look at the winning streak

Wisconsin currently owns a 14-game winning streak against Minnesota. A look at some of the numbers in those victories:

  • Wisconsin has scored at least 31 points in 13 of the 14 wins. The only time the Badgers did not hit that threshold was a 20–7 win on the road back in Gary Andersen’s first season as head coach in 2013.
  • In fact, 31 sort of feels like the magic number for Wisconsin to score points, as it has scored exactly that number of points in four of the 14 wins, including the last three seasons. Minnesota comes into Saturday’s contest allowing 29.1 points per contest.
  • Wisconsin has won seven games at home, seven on the road in that time.
  • Wisconsin is quick to point out that it has had at least one Badger rush for 100 yards in the 14 contests against the Gophers. In that that time, its offense has also gained 239.8 rushing yards per game. Minnesota will come into Camp Randall giving up an average of 170.7 yards per game, 73rd in the FBS this season.

Close calls

As Wisconsin also points out, it has outscored Minnesota by an average of 35.6–19.4 in the last 14 outings. However, UW has had to overcome some adversity during this winning streak. We already called out the 2016 match-up, but here are a few others that could have killed the streak:

  • 2005: The game that will forever be remembered in the rivalry, as Jonathan Casillas blocked a Justin Kucek punt that was recovered by Ben Strickland in the end zone for the eventual game-winning touchdown in a 38–34 comeback win.
  • 2008: Wisconsin was down 21–7 at halftime before storming back to take a 35–32 victory at Camp Randall. P.J. Hill ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
  • 2009: Minnesota led 13–10 at the half before Wisconsin scored three touchdowns in the final two quarters to take the Axe again with a 31–28 win. John Clay rushed for 186 yards on 32 carries with three touchdowns on the day.
  • 2014: The Badgers were down by as much as a 17–3 deficit in the second quarter at home before scoring 24 unanswered points to take a 10-point lead with 10:57 remaining in the game. Leidner ran it in from two yards out to bring the game within a field goal, but Wisconsin’s all-time winningest quarterback, Joel Stave, found wide receiver Rob Wheelwright for a 17-yard touchdown pass with 4:41 left in regulation. That late score ultimately secured a 34–24 win and clinched Wisconsin’s trip to Indianapolis in the Big Ten title game. A lot has changed since that one game—except for continuing to retain the Axe.