Nov. 23, 2013
BY MIKE LUCAS
After turning off the microphone from his work with the Badger Sports Network, UWBadgers.com Insider Mike Lucas offers his take on the Badgers' 20-7 win over Minnesota.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Since the Ohio State loss, Wisconsin had trailed in the second quarter just once in the five games leading up to its Border Battle renewal with Minnesota.
("Battle" may not be appropriate any longer, according to a Russell Wilson tweet.)
A 44-yard touchdown pass from Joel Stave to Jacob Pedersen overcame a 6-0 deficit to the Hawkeyes with just 1:49 remaining before halftime in Iowa City.
Saturday, the Gophers went up, 7-3, after linebacker Aaron Hill picked off Stave and returned the interception 39 yards for a touchdown at 13:29 of the second quarter in Minneapolis.
The Badgers needed to answer, and they did so with their defense.
After driving to the UW 36, Minnesota faced a third-and-11. Quarterback Philip Nelson was chased out of the pocket by linebacker Chris Borland, who just missed tripping him up for a sack.
As Nelson scrambled to his left, he was blindsided by Brendan Kelly, who knocked the ball out of Nelson's grasp just before he could launch a pass.
Borland scooped the fumble and actually handed it off to Joe Schobert at the end of his 9-yard run. The football was spotted on the Minnesota 49.
Five plays later, James White scored on a 1-yard run and the Badgers had a 10-7 lead. The momentum swing was huge as the Badgers tacked on another field goal for a 13-7 halftime advantage.
Rallying to regain the lead was significant from a psychological standpoint since Minnesota was 14-0 when leading at halftime under coach Jerry Kill. That included a 7-0 mark this season.
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Jared Abbrederis and Jacob Pedersen combined for 12 of Wisconsin's 16 pass completions. Abbrederis had seven catches for 67 yards and Pedersen had five for 45.
The week before, Abbrederis was held without a reception against Indiana, snapping a 37-game streak in which he had at least one. (He did score twice on a jet sweep and an end-around.)
Against the Gophers, Abbrederis was open more often than not and drew two pass interference calls in the end zone on Eric Murray and Travis Damarius that impacted scoring drives for the Badgers.
Wisconsin opened the third quarter with a statement by driving 83 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown. Abbrederis had four catches, including a pair of 21-yard gains and a 2-yard scoring toss.
After an offensive holding penalty put the Badgers in a first-and-20 hole, Pedersen caught a 10-yard pass to make for more manageable play calls on second and third down.
The cold weather affected the throwing accuracy of Stave, who rebounded nicely in the second half to make the necessary throws to put Wisconsin in scoring position -- including going 6-for-6 for 68 yards on the Badgers' scoring drive to open the third quarter.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
You could not have asked for a more defining play than Borland's tackle and strip of Minnesota tailback David Cobb. Borland forced and recovered the fumble.
There have been many pieces to the defensive puzzle that have fallen in place for this team. Keeping Borland healthy has been one of them. Getting him back from the hamstring injury has been telling, too.
There also has been the emergence of Michael Caputo, who has not only helped fill a void at safety but he has provided much needed flexibility as a linebacker-safety hybrid.
There has been the development of Sojourn Shelton, a true freshman. While there have been some growing pains, Shelton has helped solidify the secondary with his play at corner.
There has been steadiness of Ethan Armstrong, who has been able to play inside or outside linebacker depending on matchups. Steady would also describe seniors Brendan Kelly and Dezmen Southward.
But everything still revolves around No. 44, Borland.
With 12 tackles at Minnesota, Borland now has 400 for his career. Only five other players in school history have reached that lofty plateau.
Borland deserves to be mentioned in the context with Pete Monty (451), Gary Casper (447), Tim Krumrie (444), Dave Lokanc (427) and Dave Crossen (427).
Krumrie is the only non-linebacker. He was a nose guard.
The unwritten rules of a rivalry may have to be revisited after Minnesota got sensitive again about the UW symbolically "chopping" the "home" goal post with Paul Bunyan's Axe.
It's pretty obvious what the Gophers can to do prevent any future celebrations on their turf. Until then, maybe the losing team in the series should just leave the field; home or away.
By now, you'd think the Gophs would have gotten the hang of this.