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Badgers Beat Gophers 28-14, Perhaps Ending Minnesota’s Season
November 25, 2023

Whether the Minnesota Gophers will have another game will depend on the decision makes for bowl bids. With a 28-14 loss at home to Wisconsin, the Gophers finished their regular season with four straight losses and only five wins overall, one short of the benchmark for an invitation to a bowl game.

In college football’s longest-running continuous rivalry, Wisconsin took a 63-62 edge in wins to go with eight ties. The Gophers remained winless since a victory over Michigan State October 28 while the Badgers improved their record to 7-5.

Minnesota coach P. J. Fleck had his usual talking points after a loss, congratulating the opponents, noting that they had made plays and the Gophers hadn’t, and taking the blame for not having his team prepared. More specifically, he mentioned missed assignments, dropped and overthrown passes, and an inability to keep Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai in the pocket.

Mordecai, a senior who missed three games this season with a broken hand, used his mobility to scramble for gains and evade pressure before passing on a pair of first-half scoring drives that kept the Badgers even with the Gophers.

Minnesota took the opening kickoff and came out passing, Athan Kaliakmanis going with a swing past to Jordan Nubin for 19 yards on the first play. A pass interference penalty a few plays later got Minnesota to the Wisconsin 34 before Kaliakmanis hit Daniel Jackson over the middle for a catch and run down to the 4. A pair of runs put the ball in the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

The Badgers didn’t counter until their third drive, which included a 19-yard Mordecai scramble into Gophers territory. Braelon Allen had a 21-yard run on the first play of the second quarter and two plays later the Gophers’ inability to contain Mordecai cost them again as he scrambled and stumbled for 15 yards to the 5. Allen scored on the next play to tie the score.

Midway through the second quarter, the Gophers benefited from two more pass-interference penalties to get inside the 10. On third and seven, Kaliakmanis completed the drive with a touchdown pass to Jackson.

The Badgers quickly tied it again. After a touchback on the kickoff, Mordecai went on the run and got off a pass to Chimere Dike, who turned it into a 35-yard gain. Allen also worked for yards after the catch, taking a pass at the 25 and making it to the 16. Another pass to Allen got five more yards before Will Pauling beat Tyler Nubin and took a Mordecai pass in the left corner for the end zone.

Wisconsin’s only turnover of the game came on a Hail Mary pass. Tyler Nubin intercepted and returned it 51 yards. Although the half ended on the play, Nubin set a Minnesota record with his 13th interception.

The Badgers took the lead in the third quarter, again in lightning fashion. On the first play, from the Wisconsin 46, Allen broke a tackles at midfield and ran to the Minnesota 4. He carried it in on the next play, giving Allen 141 yards on the ground at this point.

The Gophers got aggressive on their next drive, converting a fourth-and-one from their 38 with a pitch to Jordan Nubin, who ran for 17 yards. However, the drive stalled when, on third down, Kaliakmanis overshot Elijah Spencer and brought about a punt.

Runs from Allen and Cade Yacamelli following a 25-yard pass to tight-end Hayden Rucci preceding a pass-interference penalty. Mordecai capped the drive with a play-action rollout and toss to another tight end, Rily Nowakowski, for a five-yard touchdown and 28-14 lead with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Gophers mounted a drive that got to the Wisconsin 27, but Jackson dropped a pass and, on fourth and nine, Kaliakmanis was unable to connect with Chris Autman-Bell in the end zone.

After getting the ball back, at their own 31, the Gophers got the fans up, and then back down, on the first play with a 30-yard completion to Jackson, who then fumbled with Wisconsin’s Maema Njongmeta recovering.

The Badgers ran off about four minutes, getting one first down on a Mordecai scramble, before puntin, and the Gophers took over at their own 10 with 4:17 left. The drive lasted as long as the previous one as Kaliamanis, being chased in the end zone, was intercepted by Ricardo Hallman. Wisconsin ran out the rest of the time to regain the lead in the rivalry and regain possession of the traveling trophy, Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

After the game, Fleck twice brought up “A lot of things out of our control,” especially injuries, which he declined to list the first time, saying nobody else cares about them. The second time, though, he did rattle off the names of injured players during the season and labeled 2023 a “readjustment year.”

Although Minnesota didn’t guarantee a bowl bid, it still has a chance and an edge over other five-win teams because of its Academic Progress Rate score. Fleck said the team would accept a bid if offered.

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