After a slow first half that saw them trail 21-7 going into the locker room, the Wisconsin football team was able to seize the momentum in the third quarter and ride it to a scintillating 35-32 victory over Minnesota. There was a stark contrast in the defensive numbers between the second to the third quarters, revealing how quickly the Badgers were able to right the ship.
Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber was 5-of-5 in the second quarter for 107 yards and two touchdowns as the Gophers racked up 21 points. In the third quarter, Wisconsin limited Weber to 1-of-6 for six yards as UM managed just a field goal.
Following the game, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema singled out Mike Newkirk, a senior on the defensive line, for his outstanding performance against the Gophers. Although Newkirks response to todays success is humble, he was instrumental in the victory, leading the Badgers with seven tackles, including two sacks. Among those sacks was one that resulted in a fourth-quarter safety that pushed UWs lead to 28-24.
It was something that was just a matter of, I dont want to say luck, but if you have enough things going against you throughout the game something has to pull through, Newkirk explained. I dont really feel like it was an outstanding performance by myself. It might not be something that the stats reflect. Everyone was thinking that you know, you had a great game and you had those two great plays thats all anybody every remembers, but its just something that you have to keep playing and trying to stay alive.
Alive is an understatement. Wisconsin football went from a disappointing first half, to an explosive improvement in the second half. The Badgers knew that they had to make some halftime adjustments if they wanted to take hold of the Axe and claim the Border Battle victory.
We started playing a little more base. We wanted to play straight up unlike some of the stunts that we had called earlier, Newkirk said. We just had to play them straight up and let us get after them and let us play a little bit faster. Didnt have to try to let them read things as much kind of turn things around a little bit.
This is Newkirks last season with the Badgers. As a native of Ladysmith, Wis., he fully understands the strong rivalry that will forever remain between the Badgers and the Gophers. As a senior, this win was his fourth contribution to a Border Battle win and possession of the traditional Axe.
Its a great feeling to keep it here, Newkirk said. Its been here ever since I have been here. You definitely want to be that class that gives something back to the team. Its something that we really treat as our property. Its something thats here. Its like if something is in your home you arent going to let someone just walk out with it. So its always good to win but it makes it even sweeter to defend the Axe.
Newkirk is satisfied with the win but is already looking towards Wisconsins next Saturdays game against Cal Poly.
Well its the same thing as every week, Newkirk said. Well come back in tomorrow and well make the corrections from this week. Well put this win away and well get ready for the next team. Its a great feeling that is over now. You cant spend too much time living on yesterday. You just have to get ready for tomorrow and that is something that we are going to do.