Badgers aim to keep Axe for 8th straight year

first_imgIt’s all about the axe.The Wisconsin football team travels to Minnesota this Saturday to attempt to hold onto Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the eighth year running.According the linebacker Chris Borland, the main focus all week has been all about the legendary trophy.“Keeping the axe, that’s the biggest thing,” Borland said. “It’s important to us, it’s important to the fans and the game is on the road, so it’s going to be a challenge, but we’re ready for it.”Although the main theme is the axe and winning the 121st game in the NCAA’s longest rivalry, the Badgers have yet to win a conference game on the road this season. Despite the bottom-feeder status Minnesota has been tagged with for most of the season, it won’t be an easy road trip.In the past two weeks Minnesota has shown that it’s finally coming together and finding a team chemistry that is transferring onto the field.Two weeks ago, Minnesota upset a struggling Iowa team, 22-21, and then traveled to Michigan State the following weekend and stuck with the Spartans well into the fourth quarter before losing 31-24.Regardless of the teams current records and their respective successes or failures, Wisconsin knows it will always be a tough fight in the longtime Border Battle.“Any time you play Minnesota in the Border Battle, it doesn’t matter their record, it doesn’t matter where they’re at or what they’re doing, they’re going to play tough,” defensive end Brendan Kelly said. “They’re a tough team to beat, and it definitely looks like the last couple games they’ve … kind of found their rhythm. I’m excited to go against them especially back in my home state.”The last time these two teams met in Minnesota, it was a close one till the end. Minnesota led 13-10 at halftime, and Wisconsin didn’t pull away for the 31-28 win until the fourth quarter.In similar fashion, the Badgers believe they’ll have another fight from the Gopher offense this year rather than the 41-23 drubbing they gave the Gophers a year ago. This is largely due to UM quarterback Marqueis Gray, who threw for a season high 295 yards last week and three touchdowns while completing 19-of-32 passing attempts.“The thing about Gray is he’s definitely got a lot more confidence as the season’s gone on,” Kelly said. “That’s something you’ve got to be aware of and obviously be ready for. Just containing him and being smart – kind of what we did with Martinez and doing the right things – breaking down when you come to tackle him and respecting his ability athletically.”As Wisconsin seeks its first Big Ten road win this year, it has to establish its offense early – something it struggled to do consistently in Colombus and East Lansing.“It’s important [to establish themselves early] because it’s the next game,” Borland said. “The fact that it’s on the road is always a challenge. This is a rivalry game, even more is at stake.”With the offense rolling against Purdue – led by running back Montee Ball and his 223 yard, four touchdown game – the main unit in need of help is the special teams, which gave up big returns on kickoffs.Head coach Bret Bielema addressed the issue in his weekly press conference Monday.“Anytime you have a fundamental breakdown in any phase of the game – offense, defense, special teams – I think you’ve got to look at, A, what you’re doing; B, who you’re doing it with; and, C, what are the results”? Bielema said. “So we’ll take that and move forward and, hopefully, have a better performance on Saturday.”Kelly essentially summed up the feel of the game by noting the importance of the rivalry, especially given his Minnesota roots.“Hopefully I can swing that [axe] a lot harder this Saturday night,” he said. “Hopefully this week I’ll be able to run around the field with that thing. I’ve never not had it. I don’t know what it would feel like to not have it, but I don’t want to find out.”last_img

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