No. 5 Wisconsin has Axe to grind with Minnesota next

Published 6:38 pm Monday, November 20, 2017

MADISON, Wis. — Watch the video monitors around the Wisconsin football facility long enough and a clip showing the last time that the Badgers lost to Minnesota eventually plays on the screen.

It’s been a while.

This bunch of Badgers doesn’t want to be known as the team that had their 13-game winning streak in the border rivalry come to an end.

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Yes, fifth-ranked Wisconsin (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten, No. 5 CFP) is already locked into a berth in the Big Ten title game on Dec. 2 against No. 8 Ohio State. But the Badgers say that they are not looking past their visit to Minnesota on Saturday. They want to keep the trophy that goes to the victor — Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

“You can’t go into this game expecting to cakewalk,” outside linebacker Garret Dooley said Monday after practice.

The team is off to the best start in school history, and the College Football Playoff chatter grows with every win.

Reminders of the 2003 loss to Minnesota bring any players who might be peeking ahead to the Big Ten title game back to reality.

“I think guys came out today (to practice) with a huge edge, ready to just get out there and play, wishing it was Saturday already.”

Senior safety Joe Ferguson also told teammates on Monday about the 1993 meeting between the rivals. Back then, the Badgers were 6-0 when they traveled to Minnesota on Oct. 23 of that year. They left with a 28-21 loss, Wisconsin’s only defeat in a 10-1-1 season.

“That’s something we don’t want to do, just going into this week, the only thing that’s on your mind is the axe,” linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “It’s all over our locker room … We want to keep that case full for sure.”

Inside linebacker coach Bob Bostad has given talk to his players about the rivalry. Other seniors will also speak up this week eager to get a chance to grab a hold of the axe.

How Wisconsin wins might also be important as they try to impress the playoff selection committee. Coach Paul Chryst’s club should be heavily favored against a team that lost 39-0 last week to Northwestern.

“This group knows about this year, two teams,” Chryst said. “You’ve got to go play the game to earn the right — either keep the axe or get the axe.”

Notes: ILB Chris Orr (left leg) and S D’Cota Dixon (right leg) were the only two players on the two-deep on the injury report, listed as questionable. … Edwards was named a finalist for the Butkus Award that goes to the nation’s best linebacker. … CB Nick Nelson won Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his 50-yard punt return for a touchdown last week against Michigan . … RB Jonathan Taylor share conference freshman player of the week honors with Indiana RB Morgan Ellison. It was the seventh time that Taylor won the award this season, tying him for most in conference history with Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett in 2014.