When it was reported that Corey Clement would not be traveling with the Badgers to Minnesota for this game due to an off the field incident, it was obvious that Wisconsin’s starting running back Dare Ogunbowale was going to have to step up. Luckily for the Badgers, Ogunbowale stepped up in a big way in Clement’s place, running for 155 on 33 carries and a touchdown. Behind fullback Derek Watt’s blocking, the Badgers had 257 yards rushing, four rushing touchdowns combined from Ogunbowale, Taiwan Deal (90 yards, 2 TDs) and Alec Ingold. With the strong running game and five forced turnovers, Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 31-21.
It was a nightmare start for Wisconsin, as Joel Stave threw a pick-six on the team’s first play from scrimmage. Minnesota’s Briean Boddy-Calhoun went through a Jazz Peavy block and took home the Stave interception intended for Alex Erickson. But, the Badgers came right back, scoring on a 10-play (9 runs, 1 pass), 67-yard drive capped by a 1-yard Alec Ingold touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7.
As the half went on, Wisconsin forced a 3-and-out, and responded with a 7:15 drive on 14 plays, 73 yards capped by a Deal 1-yard touchdown run. Minnesota did rebuttal to tie it up 14-14 early in the second quarter, but Wisconsin never looked back after that. The Badgers scored 14 unanswered points going into halftime, coming off back-to-back fumble recoveries by Darius Hillary (Joe Schobert and Michael Caputo forced them respectively). Deal ran for his second touchdown, and Ogunbowale added his own as the half neared its end. By the end of the half, Wisconsin had 151 rushing yards and lead 28-14.
Not much happened the rest of the way, with Minnesota outscoring Wisconsin 7-3 in the second half. The Badgers did force two more turnovers, the first on a Schobert interception. Linebacker Jack Cichy tipped the pass, but was actually ejected on the play where he made a foolish blindside block on a Minnesota lineman. Since the penalty happened in the second half, Cichy will not be able to play in the first half of the Badgers’ bowl game. Tanner McEvoy added two interceptions in the fourth quarter, and he now has six on the season.
Usual starting right guard Walker Williams missed the game, but redshirt freshman Beau Benszschawel did an impressive job filling in at RG, sliding from his usual right tackle position. Redshirt freshman Jacob Maxwell started at right tackle, and did a fine job as well.
Paul Bunyan’s Axe is coming back to Madison for the 12th straight time. Wisconsin won the turnover battle, 4-1, which I highlighted as a key to victory in my preview. The Badgers were 9-18 on third down, while the Gophers were only 3-12. Dominating the time of possession 40:35 to 19:25, Wisconsin seemed to be in control the entire game.
Wisconsin finished the regular season 9-3 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten. The team’s bowl game will be announced in the coming weeks.
Image from Vince Biegel’s Twitter.