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Badgers blow out Gophers to keep Axe home

While the national media has been talking all about the Wisconsin Badgers and the College Football Playoff, the team was laser-focused on keeping Paul Bunyan’s Axe home.

Mission accomplished, as the Badgers destroyed their rivals in a 31-0 route at TCF Bank Stadium.

The win pushed the Badgers to 12-0 and completed an undefeated regular season. It also gave the Badgers their first-ever lead in the all-times series against Minnesota.

It was done by an absolutely suffocating defense and a highly efficient day for sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook.

Hornibrook ended his day early in the 4th quarter with the Badgers up 31-0, but he also had his most efficient game in conference play all season. He ended the day 15 of 19 for 151 yards and three touchdowns.

For the first time in conference play, Hornibrook didn’t throw a single interception either.

Add in a 149-yard and one touchdown day from star running back Jonathan Taylor and it was all the offense the Badgers really needed.

That’s because the defense bottled up any hope for the Gophers early and often. Wisconsin’s defense allowed just 133 yards of offense and only eight first downs, while shutting out the Gophers offense.

The story was told in the first half, as Wisconsin’s defense allowed just one drive to go beyond a three-and-out, with that drive coming on the final drive of the half. It resulted in two first downs and a 46-yard field goal attempt for Minnesota.

Emmitt Carpenter’s 46-yard effort went wide right and Wisconsin went in to the half up 17-0.

The halftime stats nearly tell the entire story of the game:

The second half was more of the same for the Badgers, as they ran away with things from the get-go.

After shutting down the Gophers on their opening drive of the half, Wisconsin went 80 yards on 8 plays and Hornibrook tossed his third touchdown of the day for a 24-0 lead with 6:06 left to go in the third quarter.

He connected with Danny Davis, his third different receiver with a touchdown on the day. Davis would finish with 5 receptions for 41 yards and the touchdown on the day.

After slowly moving towards the 100-yard mark, freshman sensation Jonathan Taylor busted loose for a 53-yard touchdown to put the final nail in the coffin at 31-0.

His day was part of a running game that put up 287 of Wisconsin’s 456 total in the winning effort. Chris James saw his most extensive action since the first game of the season and put up 51 yards on just seven carries.

It is on to the Big Ten championship game for the Badgers, where they will meet the Ohio State Buckeyes for a shot at 13-0 and a likely spot in the College Football Playoff. The trip will be Wisconsin’s fifth in the seven-year history of the championship game, with the Badgers 3-2 in said game.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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