MINNEAPOLIS — Paul Bunyan’s Axe is coming back to Madison.
No. 12 Wisconsin scored touchdowns on five straight possessions on its way to a dominating 38-17 win over No. 8 Minnesota on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Offense: Jack Coan and Quintez Cephus
All the attention this week was on Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan and his two dynamic wide receivers — Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson. While that trio had its moments, it was Coan and Cephus that delivered some of the biggest plays of the game.
On the first possession of the second half, the Gophers had Wisconsin pinned at its own 9-yard line. Instead of being cautious, Coan tossed one up to Cephus for at 31-yard gain on firsts down. Two plays later, Coan dropped a beauty right down the middle to the junior wide receiver for a 47-yard touchdown.
Cephus finished the day with five catches for 114 yards, while Coan threw for 280 yards and two scores. On a day that should not have been conducive to the air game, the Badgers found plenty of success because of those two.
Defense: Caesar Williams
The defense had been maligned in recent weeks, but they showed up against the Gophers. That was especially true of the secondary. After freshman Semar Melvin got burned for a touchdown on the first drive of the game, the Badgers didn’t get beat down the field again. Time after time Morgan threw the ball up for his receivers, and more often than not, Wisconsin was up to the challenge.
As for Williams, he caught an interception off a tipped pass in the first quarter, but saved his best work on back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter. With Wisconsin leading 24-10, the Gophers tried to throw to Johnson on third and fourth down inside the 5-yard line but Williams was able to break up both passes. He finished with four pass breakups on a day the Badgers had nine as a team.
Special teams: Isaac Guerendo
It was 17-10 in the third quarter when the Badgers decided it was time for Guerendo to get the ball for the first time in his college career. Normal return man Aron Cruickshank returned the kickoff to the right before dishing the ball to the redshirt freshman on a reverse. He took off, using his track speed to rumble 49 yards and set up another Wisconsin touchdown.
“That felt awesome,” Guerendo said. “It’s just good to be able to contribute in some way to get that axe back for those seniors.”
Badgers LT Cole Van Lanen
“We were coming in for one thing and that was to get the axe back to where it belongs. We did that today.”
In Case You Missed It
— After a one year stay in Minnesota, the Badgers reclaimed Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Wisconsin has now beaten the Gophers 15 of the last 16 years.
— Wisconsin once again owns the lead (61-60-8) in the all-time series with the Gophers.
— With the win, Wisconsin won the Big Ten West for a third time in coach Paul Chryst’s five years as coach.
— Wisconsin WR AJ Taylor suffered a right leg injury and did not return.
— ESPN’s College GameDay came to Minnesota for the first time. The Badgers won as the road team with GameDay in town for the first time since beating Purdue in 2004.
Inside the Numbers
6 — That’s how many times Wisconsin has made the Big Ten Championship. The Badgers will face No. 1 Ohio State next Saturday in Indianapolis looking to improve on their 2-3 record in total games.
76 — That’s how many yards rushing Minnesota had. It’s the second-fewest in a game this year.
205.1 — That was Coan’s passer rating — the highest of his career.
23 — That’s how many sacks linebackers Zack Baun and Chris Orr have combined for this season. It’s just the second time in Wisconsin history that two Badgers have had a double-digit number of sacks in the same season.
Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2) will head to Indianapolis to face unbeaten Ohio State (12-0, 9-0) for the Big Ten title on Saturday night. The Buckeyes beat the Badgers 38-7 in October.