How the axe came back

Asad Abdul-Khaliq led the early scoring surge

The axe is back thanks to a strong running game, an impressive early showing by Asad Abdul-Khaliq and a nice relief performance from backup Benji Kamrath.

Despite losing QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq to a left shoulder injury, Minnesota beat Wisconsin 37-34 and earned its ninth win of the season — the first time the Gophers have reached that level since 1905.

For the win against the Badgers, Rhys Lloyd kicked a 35-yard field goal on the game's final play.

The Gophers appeared ready for a peak effort, as super freshman Laurence Maroney scored on a 30-yard run less than a minute into the game and Minnesota built a 24-6 lead with 2:00 to go in the second quarter. However, the game turned dramatically in the final 120 seconds of the first half.

FB Thomas Tapeh had scored on a six-yard run to build the 18-point lead, but Lloyd's ensuing kickoff went out of bounds. Wisconsin took advantage of the short field and scored 35 seconds later.

On the ensuing possession, Abdul-Khaliq scrambled and Wisconsin defensive tackle Darius Jones drove him to the turf. Abdul-Khaliq landed on his non-throwing shoulder and could not return.

Benji Kamrath filled in and attempted to direct the Minnesota offense. He led the Gophers to 10 second-half points, and the Gophers had a 34-27 lead early in the fourth quarter. However, when Wisconsin QB Jim Sorgi threw a 26-yard TD pass to Owen Daniels midway through the fourth quarter, Kamrath had to come through in a big way.

He did. He threw a 22-yard sideline pass to Aaron Hosack that kept the late drive alive and led to Lloyd's game winner.

Minnesota goes for its record 10th win of the season at Iowa this week.

NOTES, QUOTES
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Benji Kamrath — Asked to come in for Asad Abdul-Khaliq in a big game, Kamrath completed 6-of-10 passes for 93 yards, including a key third-down pass to Aaron Hosack that helped set up the game-winning field goal.

KEEP YOUR EYE ON: RB Marion Barber — The running game keeps on mowing down opponents. Barber ran for 139 yards, but he was closely followed by Laurence Maroney, who added 135 yards. Both Maroney and Barber had TD runs against the Badgers.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's beautiful, man. To have a game-winning field goal and then run across the field to get the axe, that was awesome." — WR Aaron Hosack on the game-winning field goal by Rhys Lloyd and the subsequent sprint to the sideline to retrieve Paul Bunyan's Axe from the Wisconsin sideline. That trophy goes to the victor in the Minnesota-Wisconsin game.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Gophers showed grit when their quarterback went down. If Asad Abdul-Khaliq had not injured his left shoulder, Minnesota might have pounded Wisconsin. However, backup Benji Kamrath came in, steadied the ship, and led the Gophers on a game-winning drive in the game's final moments.

STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Minnesota's pass defense got torn up in the second half by Wisconsin QB Jim Sorgi. He threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns. Minnesota needs to tighten up at Iowa this week.

INJURY IMPACT: QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq was forced out of the game after injuring his left shoulder in the second quarter. His status against Iowa had not been determined. TE Ben Utecht suffered a first-half strained abdominal muscle and did not return.


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