Wisconsin rallies, will face OSU for Big Ten title
Madison, Wis. — Another come-from-behind win lifted Wisconsin to a Big Ten division title.
Melvin Gordon ran for 151 yards and accounted for two scores, and the 14th-ranked Badgers rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to beat No. 22 Minnesota, 34-24, on Saturday night to earn a trip to the conference championship game.
Joel Stave threw for 215 yards, including 160 to receiver Alex Erickson. Stave's 17-yard touchdown pass to Robert Wheelwright with 4:41 left in the game gave the Badgers (10-2, 7-1) a 10-point lead, and Wisconsin's defense held from there.
The Badgers will play Ohio State next week for the league title after claiming the West Division crown.
It was not easy. Physical Minnesota (8-4, 5-3) let a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter slip away. David Cobb ran for 118 yards on 25 carries, including a 40-yard score.
"Wow, so proud of the kids when adversity strikes," Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said.
Just like two weeks ago, when the Badgers fell behind early to Nebraska before storming back for a big victory.
"The plan was definitely not to go behind by 14 points at home again," Andersen joked.
This was one was even more important. The Midwest neighbors have a not-so-friendly rivalry, and a few Badgers hobbled off to the sideline on a chippy night.
Gordon limped off the field with 3:12 left in the game, favoring his right ankle.
"Mel-vin Gor-don! Mel-vin Gor-don!" adoring fans at Camp Randall Stadium chanted for their Heisman contender. He had his right ankle taped up and took the field for the end-of-game kneel-down after Minnesota tossed four incompletions on its final desperate drive.
There was no way that Gordon was going to miss the end of what was likely his final home game. A bright NFL future awaits the junior running back.
Gordon set a Big Ten single-season rushing record on his first carry after coming in tied with former Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne at 2,109 yards.
He had lots of help on Saturday night.
Stave and Erickson combined to torch the Gophers secondary. Backup running back Corey Clement, playing with a right shoulder injury, scored on a 28-yard run on his first carry with 6:20 left in the third quarter to give the Badgers their first lead of the night, 20-17.
Clement, the heir apparent to Gordon in the backfield, finished with 89 yards on seven gritty carries.
Wisconsin celebrated after time expired, having secured Paul Bunyan's Axe for an 11th straight season.
Minnesota's milestone regular season ended in disappointment. They were hoping to go 6-2 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1973.
Quarterback Mitch Leidner ran for 54 yards and two scores on 14 carries. His 2-yard touchdown run with 7:32 left got the Gophers within 27-24, but Wisconsin answered right back with Wheelwright's touchdown catch.
Cobb played well in spite of injuring a hamstring in a come-from-behind, 28-24 win last week at Nebraska.
There was no repeat performance in Madison. Minnesota lost for the first time in coach Jerry Kill's four-year tenure after leading at the half, after going 20-0.