MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Collin Larsh kicked a 30-yard field goal in overtime to give Wisconsin a 20-17 victory over Minnesota in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe in the most-played rivalry in the FBS.
Minnesota failed to score on its first possession in overtime when Anders Gelecinskyj’s 36-yard field goal attempt from the left hashmark sailed just outside the left upright
It was the 130th game between the programs. This season’s game on Nov. 28 was canceled due to COVID-19 issues in the Gophers program.
Wisconsin (3-3, 3-3 Big Ten) had lost three consecutive games, not scoring more than seven points in any of them. The Badgers entered without their two leading rushers, Jalen Berger and Nakia Watson, top receivers Danny Davis III and Kendric Pryor, and left tackle Cole Van Lanen.
“I’m awfully proud of the way our guys competed and played,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “There was some tremendous efforts by a lot of guys. This game means something and you certainly saw that and felt it at the end. Just really proud of the way the guys fought through a lot of different things to get this win.”
Senior Garrett Groshek, who entered with 105 total yards rushing this season, carried 24 times for 154 yards with a career-long run of 39 yards for a touchdown for the Badgers.
“I thought it was a tremendous performance.” Chryst said. “I thought the way he finished runs. He got off to a good start and had the big touchdown run, but I was impressed with the way he just kept driving the pile. I thought it was a guy that played with a decided heart and put it all out there. It shows you he cares about this team and was going to do anything he could to help this team.”
Minnesota (3-4, 3-4) tied it at 17 on Tanner Morgan’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Mike Brown-Stephens with 4:40 remaining. Morgan kept the 12-play, 75-yard drive alive on fourth-and-4 with a 4-yard keeper to the Wisconsin 4.
After Gelecinskyj’s 38-yard field goal put Minnesota up 10-7 midway through the third quarter, Graham Mertz completed 3 of 4 passes to move the Badgers from their own 25 to a first-and-goal at the Gophers 10.
Mertz carried to 4-yard line on second down, but was hurt on the tackle. Sophomore Chase Wolf came on and, under heavy pressure, rolled left and hit Jack Dunn for the score to put Wisconsin up 14-10.
Collin Larsh added a 38-yard field goal on Wisconsin’s next possession to make it 17-10 with 11:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Gophers capitalized on field position for their first score after Morgan’s pooch punt pinned Wisconsin at the 1-yard line. The Badgers went three and out and Minnesota responded with a six-play, 53-yard touchdown drive.
Morgan hit Cam Wiley on a wheel route to the right side for a 16-yard touchdown to put Minnesota up 7-0 with 2:04 left in the first quarter.
Wisconsin countered on its next possession with a 39-yard touchdown run up the middle by Garrett Groshek, whose previous long run this season was 13 yards.
“Obviously a devastated locker room, very disappointed, sad, but not pouty,” said Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck. “Nope. Just sad that they didn’t win. After a hard-fought rivalry loss like that, when you walk into that locker room, I‘m not saying that’s what you want to see, but people care.”
Minnesota: The Gophers, who had won three of their last four, probably needed to win to receive a bowl bid.
Wisconsin: When wideouts Davis and Pryor went down the Badgers struggled to stretch the field offensively. In their absence, freshman Chimere Dike gained valuable experience. Mertz and Berger also are freshmen.
Minnesota will wait and see if it receives a bowl bid.
Wisconsin will have to await a bowl bid.
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