The Wisconsin Badgers reclaimed the Axe Trophy and improved to 7-5 with a 28-14 victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday, working well on both sides of the ball for a double-digit victory.
The Badgers overcame a slow start (again), pushing away in a strong third quarter with 14 unanswered points after going into halftime tied at 14 a piece.
Here are three quick takeaways from the Badgers 28-14 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Badgers embraced true Big Ten play in this one, sporting a run-dominant approach, as they ended with 267 yards on 44 carries.
A not-100% Braelon Allen led the way with 26 carries for 165 yards and two touchdowns, powering the way as the main source of offense for the Badgers.
Allen’s 165 yards brought him to be just 16 yards short of a 1,000-yard campaign, as the running back left the game in the fourth quarter and did not return after limping off the field.
If that was Allen’s final game in a Badger uniform, it was the best way to go out in a marquee performance by the running back.
But, he wasn’t the only factor. Tanner Mordecai utilized his legs a ton, rushing for 69 yards on nine carries, while Cade Yacamelli added 33 yards on nine attempts.
The Badgers were determined to run the football and took advantage of Minnesota’s tackling woes, which helped them move the chains and score 28 points, their highest total since September 22nd vs. Purdue.
The short-distance situations struggled again and that’s something offensive coordinator Phil Longo will have to evaluate significantly this offseason.
But, the Badgers got the job done offensively, and it was primarily due to their run game.
While the Badgers ran the football 44 times in this one, quarterback play was a major factor in the win.
As I shared above, Mordecai was a significant threat on the ground with his legs, generating a second form of offense as the Badgers offensive line protected the quarterback extremely well in this one.
However, Mordecai also got into a groove in the air, where he completed 14/22 passes for 145 yards, a touchdown and an interception that came on a half-ending Hail Mary attempt.
Mordecai primarily targeted the intermediate range of the field for his success, hitting 60 percent of his passes between five and 14 air yards for 99 yards.
His best drive came in a fiery response to Minnesota’s second quarter touchdown, as the Badgers compiled a four-play, 75-yard drive that lasted under two minutes where Mordecai fired passes to Chimere Dike, Braelon Allen, and Will Pauling for chunk plays and the eventual touchdown.
On the flip side, Athan Kaliakmanis underwhelmed against Wisconsin.
His ball placement was questionable throughout the afternoon, while he also looked flustered against minimal pressure, leading to some poor decisions. Those issues stalled the Minnesota offense from getting into rhythm, despite a run game that fielded 132 yards on 4.6 yards per carry.
Tanner Mordecai outplayed his competition and it was reflected by the score at the end of the game.
The Badgers defense allowed a touchdown on the opposing team’s opening drive for the fourth consecutive game.
But, just as they did last week, the defense bounced back from a porous start and shut out Minnesota in the second half, allowing just 14 total points, while forcing a pair of turnovers in the win.
While execution hasn’t been great early on, the Badgers have found a way to be resilient on the defensive side of the ball, working through adversity and minimizing scoring opportunities for their opponents.
They did have three separate pass interference calls on underthrown deep passes, but forced six punts, while limiting Minnesota’s comeback with two turnovers.
The third quarter was key for the Badgers on both sides, as they forced punts on Minnesota’s two drives, while scoring two touchdowns of their own.
Next up, the Badgers will see what bowl game awaits their way, but it was a sweet end to an up-and-down season.