After a dominant win at home over the Hoosiers, Gary Andersen talked about the excitement shared by the No. 19 Wisconsin football team as they prep for No. 25 Minnesota in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
“First of all, I’m excited for the opportunity to get to this big rivalry,” head coach Gary Andersen said at his weekly Monday press conference. “I know the kids are excited about it.”
The Golden Gophers are 8-2 (4-2 Big Ten) and are riding a four-game winning streak entering the game and will have plenty of energy after a bye week this past weekend.
“Rivalries that have gone on for this long have so many stories behind them and so many moments behind them,” Andersen said. “It’s what’s great about college football in my opinion.”
Andersen also expressed the importance of this rivalry, especially in giving the younger players the opportunity to learn what the Wisconsin-Minnesota battle truly entails. Per UW tradition, during the week leading up to the border battle, Andersen said assistant coach Henry Mason will give a presentation on the history of the rivalry.
“As we all know in rivalries like this, it’s a one-game championship, and it’s three hours and whatever minutes it takes to get it done. The young kids need to understand the tradition, how it is, how important it is for the kids on this football team, how important it is for all of the Badgers,” he said. “It matters, and they need to learn quickly what it’s all about.”
The Badgers have won Paul Bunyan’s axe the last nine years, but the all-time series record narrowly favors the Gophers at 58-56-8. Heading into Saturday, both teams are nationally ranked and boast 8-2 overall records, giving this matchup all of the makings for an intense rivalry game.
Wisconsin enters the game after a domineering 51-3 victory over Indiana last weekend.
“It was a very solid game all the way across. Very proud of the kids after I watched the tape, very proud of the coaches,” Andersen said. “Offense, defense, special teams all contributed. They all needed to be able to contribute in that game, and the kids were all excited, had a lot of juice, a lot of energy, a lot of passion for the game. [It was] another terrific crowd and it was another terrific day to be a badger.”
Senior running back James White took the first play from scrimmage for a 93-yard score and the Badgers never looked back, tallying 20 points in the first quarter alone. White led the way with a career-high 205 rushing yards and a touchdown. Andersen expressed his awe in White’s ability to make tacklers miss.
“He has a unique ability,” Andersen said. “Those guys aren’t getting a finger on James, so obviously he does a tremendous job of setting up, with distance left on the defender and him on what’s going to take place.”
Junior running back Melvin Gordon also contributed 146 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, and freshman running back Corey Clement got into the mix adding 108 yards and two scores as well.
“I’ve been around some talented young backs,” Andersen said. “But Corey’s mental ability to be able to handle it through summer, through camp, through the early games where he was getting a lot of carries and playing and scoring touchdowns, gaining yards. And going through the middle of the season where some games he didn’t even get a snap.
“And then to walk in there last game and do what he did, and be prepared as he is. So he’s the full package.”
The Badgers also got rushing yards from a different source in redshirt senior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. Abbrederis only had two carries for 27 yards on the season prior to Saturday’s game, but ran for 86 yards and two touchdowns on three carries Saturday.