The Wisconsin Badgers missed a chance to reclaim Paul Bunyan’s Ax when they lost to Minnesota, 23-16, Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
The Badgers fell to 6-6 overall and 4-5 in the Big Ten.
Reporter Mark Stewart brought you live updates and analysis from the press box below.
UW takes over with 1:48 left with one last chance
The Gophers couldn’t cash in on a Graham Mertz interception and after Matthew Trickett’s 48-yard field goal hit the upright, the Badgers took over with 1:48 to play at their 30.
Their chances looked bleak after Mertz had to leave the game after running for a 2-yard gain. Backup Chase Wolf came on and after nearly throwing an interception on his first play, ran for a 7-yard gain on third and 8. Isaac Guerendo had a 14-yard gain on fourth and 1 from the 50.
Wolf then completed a 16-yard strike to Chimere Dike for a first down to the 20 and a pass interference on a pass to Skyler Bell gave the Badgers a first down on the 5.
A holding call on Riley Mahlman pushed the ball back to the 15 and a false start gave UW a first and goal from the 20 with 21 seconds left After an incompletion on first down, a false start by Tyler Beach pushed the Badgers back to the 25 for their second down play. Yet another false start, this one on Mahlman, made it second and goal from the 30.
Wolf completed a 5-yard pass to Bell to set up the final play, fourth and goal from the 25. Wolf’s pass to Keontez Lewis was too high.
Final: Minnesota 23, Wisconsin 16.
Graham Mertz interception gives the Gophers the ball with 2:48 to play
Wisconsin’s first turnover of the day came at an inopportune time. Graham Mertz overthrew Chimere Dike on a pass down the seam and was intercepted by Justin Walley. Walley returned the ball 28 yards to the UW 35.
Minnesota burns UW with play, takes lead
If Wisconsin is to reclaim the Ax, it will have to make a comeback to do it.
Minnesota took a 23-16 lead late in the fourth quarter on a 45-yard pass from Athan Kaliakmanis to Lemeke Brockington.
Score: Minnesota 23, Wisconsin 16, 3:40 fourth quarter.
Gophers tie game on Matthew Trickett’s third FG
Minnesota moved 69 yards in nine plays and tied the game, 16-16, on a 27-yard field goal by Matthew Trickett.
The big plays of the drive were a second down call on which Athan Kaliakmanis hit Brevyn Spann-Ford for an 18-yard gain and a first down at the UW 45 and a deep ball from Kaliakmanis to Daniel Jackson for a 34-yard gain and a first down at the Badgers’ 12.
Score: Wisconsin 16, Minnesota 16, 7:58 fourth quarter.
Badgers defense rising to challenge
Part of Wisconsin’s struggle in the first half was getting off the field on third down. Minnesota converted four of seven third downs into first downs in the first half. With 12:56 left in the game, the Gophers are 0 for 4 on third down in the second half.
The UW defense has not allowed a Minnesota first down on the Gophers’ last three possessions. Their last drive, which ended at the 12:56 mark of the fourth quarter, came to a screeching half after sophomore end James Thompson and redshirt freshman outside linebacker recorded sacks QB Athan Kaliakmanis.
Chimere Dike scores on reverse to give Wisconsin lead
Those of you looking for more creativity in the Badgers’ play calling got your wish late in the third quarter. With Wisconsin facing a second-and-6 from the 9-yard line, junior receiver Chimere Dike scored the Badgers’ first touchdown of the day on a reverse.
On the play, Dike lined up in the slot, took one hard step off the line and then ran into the backfield where he took a toss from Chez Mellusi and beat the Gophers around the end and reached the end zone untouched.
That score was set up by another nice play call, a 28-yard gain on a pass from Graham Mertz to fullback Jackson Acker. On the play, the Badgers flowed all their receivers and ran back to the right side of the formation to set up Mertz’s pass to Acker to the left. Acker used his speed to give the Badgers a first down at the Gophers 13.
Score: Wisconsin 16, Minnesota 13, 3:14 third quarter.
Nate Van Zelst continues to deliver
Redshirt freshman Nate Van Zelst equaled a career high with his third field goal, a 36-yard attempt that cut the Minnesota lead to four points.
The possession covered 57 yards, took nine plays and took 3:01 off the clock. The big play was a 24-yard completion from Graham Mertz to Dean Engram that Wisconsin flipped the field, giving the Badgers a first down at the Minnesota 31.
Engram, by the way, is having a good afternoon so far. He leads UW with three catches for 41 yards.
Score: Minnesota 13, Wisconsin 9, 7:58 third quarter.
Personal foul penalty extends Gophers drive, leads to FG
Minnesota pushed its lead to seven points on a 50-yard field goal by Matthew Trickett.
The possession was another example of the Badgers missing a chance to get off the field without allowing any points. The back breaker this time was a rougher the passer call on outside linebacker CJ Goetz on a third down incompletion. Instead of forcing a punt at the Minnesota 30, the Badgers defense was faced with a first down at the Gophers’ 45.
Ultimately Minnesota drove 49 yards in eight plays before Trickett’s kick.
Score: Minnesota 13, Wisconsin 6, 10:59 third quarter.
Matthew Trickett’s 50-yard FG allows Gophers to extend lead
Late second quarter drive leads to Minnesota FG
The inability of the Badgers defense to get off the field on third down came back to haunt it late in the second quarter. Minnesota’s offense took over on its 18 and moved 75 yards in 13 plays before settling for a 25-yard field goal by Matthew Trickett as time ran out in the first half.
The play that hurt the most on the drive besides the field goal was a third-and-12 play from the Gophers 16 that Mohamed Ibrahim converted for a first down with a 14-yard gain. UW safety Kamo’i Latu missed a tackle that would have stopped Ibrahim short of the first down.
Minnesota also had an 11-yard gain by quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis on third and 3 from the Gophers’ 37.
Those two plays helped Minnesota flip the field and set up Trickett’s field goal.
In case you’re wondering, the Gophers have converted four of seven third down situations into first downs.
Score: Minnesota 10, Wisconsin 6, halftime.
Nate Van Zelst goes 2 for 2
Wisconsin has put together a couple of drives of 10-plus plays but don’t have a touchdown to show for them.
The Badgers’ latest possession went 12 plays, covered 65 yards and took 6:04 off the clock. It stalled at the Minnesota 25, but redshirt freshman Nate Van Zelst came on a drilled a 43-yard attempt. That is the longest field goal of his young career.
Score: Minnesota 7, Wisconsin 6, 8:51 second quarter.
Score one of the Badgers defense
Earlier this week interim coach Jim Leonhard noted that he thought Minnesota was the more physical team last year. The Gophers have flexed their muscles in that regard so far today, but they came up empty on a fourth-and-1 play from the UW 11.
The Badgers went with their goal line package on the play and linebacker Jordan Turner was the first to make contact with Gophers QB Athan Kaliakmanis on a quarterback sneak attempt.
First down Wisconsin with 14:55 left in the second quarter.
Gophers execute on third down, reach end zone first
Minnesota responded to the Badgers’ first drive with an impressive possession of its own. The Gophers moved 81 yards in 10 plays and took 5:19 off the clock before Athan Kaliakmanis hit Daniel Jackson for a 6-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.
The drive was aided by two third-down conversions. On third and 5 from the Minnesota 38, Kaliakmanis scrambled for a 23-yard gain that gave his team a first down at the UW 39. The second third down conversion came on third and goal when Jackson beat the UW defense on a slant. With the play, Kaliakmanis went 4 for 4 on the opening possession for 40 yards.
Score: Minnesota 7, Wisconsin 3, 3:45 first quarter.
One drive, one score for Wisconsin
That has been the story of the game so far for the Badgers. They took the opening possession and moved the ball 53 yards in 11 plays while taking 5:21 off the clock. A third down conversion on a pass from Graham Mertz to Dean Engram kept the chains moving as did a pass interference on a third down pass intended for Chimere Dike.
The penalty on the pass to Dike gave Wisconsin a first down on the Minnesota 22. The Badgers got no closer to the end zone and settled for a 40-yard field goal by Nate Van Zelst.
Wisconsin 3, Minnesota 0, 9:39 first quarter.
Braelon Allen is not suiting up
Sophomore Braelon Allen headlines a short list of Badgers who are unavailable to play due to injury. He will be joined by kicker Vito Calvaruso (left leg) and outside linebacker Aaron Witt (left leg) on the status report of players who are listed as out for the regular season finale.
This will mark the second time Allen has missed a game for UW; he didn’t play against Notre Dame last year due to a concussion. He leads the team with 1,121 yards in 207 carries, but has been nagged by shoulder and left ankle injuries. He was so beat up last week that he wasn’t able to take the field for UW’s final drive, a possession the team needed to win the game.
Allen’s absence means plenty of work for Chez Mellusi and Isaac Guerendo, who played well last week against Nebraska.
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