Minnesota players celebrate with the Paul Bunyan Axe trophy after beating Wisconsin 37-15 in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

FOOTBALL
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The giddy Minnesota players ran one way down the field, with one lucky Golden Gopher holding tightly on to Paul Bunyan’s Axe as they raced toward a goal post.

Coach P.J. Fleck went the other way, jogged past the end zone and gave someone a bear hug.

Fourteen years of frustration, all gone in one memorable night at Camp Randall Stadium.

Mohamed Ibrahim ran for 121 yards and a score, a resurgent defense held up on the road and Minnesota ran away from Wisconsin for a 37-15 win on Saturday to snap a 14-game losing streak in the rivalry and reclaim the precious axe.

“This is why you coach. These are moments and memories you’ll remember forever,” Fleck said.

The Gophers (6-6, 3-6 Big Ten) also became bowl eligible for the first time under the excitable second-year head coach.

And yet that important step forward for the program was overshadowed, at least for one night, with the victory to take back the axe. It was Minnesota’s first win in the series since 2003, and the first victory in Madison since 1994.

“When you hold the axe, now you know why everybody wants it so much,” Fleck said. “It’s a very surreal feeling.”

They earned it by following Wisconsin’s blueprint for success, pounding away on the ground in the second half and capitalizing on four turnovers.

Bryce Williams ran for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, both coming on drives after turnovers by Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook.

Jonathan Taylor, the nation’s leading rusher, had 120 yards on 19 carries for the Badgers (7-5, 5-4). Hornibrook, starting for the first time since missing two games while in the concussion protocol, threw three interceptions and lost a fumble on a sack.

Minnesota scored 24 points off those miscues.

Hornibrook was listed as questionable during the week after his second concussion in a month. Coach Paul Chryst said the team felt confident that Hornibrook was ready.

“Anytime you turn the ball over that number of times, you make it tough on yourselves,” Chryst said.

IMPROVING DEFENSE

What a turnaround for Minnesota’s defense since Joe Rossi took over as interim coordinator following a 55-31 loss to Illinois on Nov. 3. The Gophers have allowed just 49 points in the three games since that blowout.

And they had to play Saturday without top linebacker Blake Cashman for the majority of the game after the standout linebacker was ejected for targeting on a punt return early in the second quarter.

Jacob Huff had 10 tackles and forced fumble for the Gophers.

SCORING FLURRY

The Gophers took control in a pivotal stretch late in the second quarter that started when Ibrahim ran untouched into the front left corner of the end zone on fourth-and-1 from the 10 with 2:21 left in the half.

Normally sure-handed receiver A.J. Taylor dropped a third-down pass to force the Wisconsin punt returned by Demetrius Douglas for a 17-0 lead with 1:05 left.

WISCONSIN BADGERED

Wisconsin looked like it would take momentum back after Jake Ferguson made an athletic, twisting catch in the end zone on a 7-yard pass from Hornibrook with 1 second left to get to 17-7.

But the Badgers couldn’t convert on fourth-and-3 from the Minnesota 44 on the opening drive of third quarter. It was a sign of things to come for Wisconsin.

“We didn’t play good enough football to earn the right to keep the axe,” Chryst said.

SEE IT, BELIEVE IT

Fleck said he had his team visualize all week what it would be like to claim back the axe.

“Being able to visualize this was huge,” quarterback Tanner Morgan said.

TAKEAWAYS

Minnesota: The Gophers ran for 152 yards on 33 carries in the second half and went 5 of 9 on third downs. They held the ball for 21 after halftime and forced two turnovers over the final 5 minutes. It was Wisconsin-like football.

Wisconsin: The loss epitomized an underwhelming season for the offense. Taylor is the team’s best big-play threat, though the Gophers keyed on the star running back early in the game. Hornibrook has been in and out of the lineup for much of the last five weeks because of injury. The passing game sputtered for much of that time whether Hornibrook or backup Jack Coan has been behind center. Hornibrook was 22 of 33 for 189 yards and two scores.

UP NEXT

Both teams await their bowl destinations. Representatives from the Citrus, Holiday and Pinstripe Bowl were at the game.

VOLLEYBALL
The No. 3 University of Minnesota volleyball team finished the regular season with a 3-0 win over Rutgers, tonight in New Brunswick, N.J. The Golden Gophers won, 25-13, 25-14, 25-20, as they improved to 25-3 overall and 19-1 in the Big Ten.

Minnesota was led by Adanna Rollins, who had 11 kills and hit .360, followed by Taylor Morgan with 10 kills and hit .600. Pittman added eight and hit .533. Samantha Seliger-Swenson added 35 assists, three aces, four digs and four blocks. Stephanie Samedy led the Gophers with nine kills, followed by Lauren Barnes with eight.

As a team, Minnesota hit .395, had 39 kills, nine blocks and 34 digs. Rutgers hit .147, had 35 kills, 31 digs and two blocks.

Minnesota, the Big Ten champion, received a NCAA automatic bid for the post season tournament. ESPNU hosts the NCAA selection show at 7:30 p.m., and will announce the field of 64. The Gophers will learn of their match up then as NCAA First and Second Rounds begin next weekend.

WOMEN’S HOCKEY
BURLINGTON, Vt. — Four different Gopher freshmen scored goals and Kelly Pannek netted her fourth goal of the tournament to lead the No. 2 University of Minnesota women’s hockey team to a 6-2 win over Vermont to capture the Windjammer Classic title at Gutterson Fieldhouse on Saturday night.

Taylor Heise (1g-2a), Amy Potomak (1g-1a), Emily Oden (1g-1a), Catie Skaja (1g-1a), and Pannek (1g-1a) recorded multiple points to lead Minnesota (13-2-1, 9-2-1-0 WCHA) in the win, and Katie Robinson also added a goal.

Alex Gulstene made 19 saves in the win, improving to 10-0-0 on the season, as Minnesota outshot Vermont (3-8-4, 2-6-2 Hockey East) 39-21 for the game.

Skaja opened the scoring just 1:13 into the game when she deflected a shot by Emily Brown past UVM netminder Melissa Black. Pannek picked up the second assist on the play.

The Catamounts countered, evening the score at 1-1 at the 12:51 mark of the first period with a goal by Kristina Shanahan. However, Heise regained the Minnesota lead before the end of the period, scoring her fifth goal of the season off a feed from Nicole Schammel with 1:02 remaining in the opening frame.

The second period saw A. Potomak score her fourth of the season to extend the Gophers’ lead to two at 3-1. Linemates Heise and Oden picked up assists on the play, and the trio combined for another goal with 5:20 remaining in the middle frame when Oden poked the puck past Black to make it 4-1 heading into the second intermission.

Vermont made it a two-goal game when Alyssa Gorecki scored an unassisted goal at the 6:44 mark of the third period, but Pannek responded with her fourth goal of the tournament to put Minnesota back on top by three with 10:11 remaining. Robinson then rounded out the scoring for the Gophers, burying a feed from Skaja with 1:53 remaining.

Pannek, Heise, and Gulstene were named to the Windjammer Classic all-tournament team, and Pannek was selected as tournament MVP after finishing the weekend with six points (4g-2a).

The Gophers remain on the road for a series at Yale on Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 1 before returning home to wrap up the first half of the season by hosting Robert Morris on Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8.

MEN’S HOCKEY
MINNEAPOLIS – Senior captain Tyler Sheehy recorded a two-goal performance for the second night in a row on behalf of the Minnesota men’s hockey team, but it was Michigan State that came out on top in Saturday’s series finale with a 4-2 win for the visitors.

The Gophers (4-6-1 overall, 2-2-0-0 Big Ten) jumped out to a two-goal lead thanks to a pair of power-play goals in the second period, but Michigan State (5-7-0, 1-3-0-0) rallied with four unanswered goals to claim the Big Ten split.

After a scoreless first period, Sheehy put the Maroon & Gold on the board with his fourth goal of the year at 10:09 of the second stanza with assists from Clayton Phillips and Rem Pitlick. The senior captain lit the lamp for the second time in the period – and fourth time on the weekend – with another power-play goal at 12:27 of the second period off assists from Sampo Ranta and Blake McLaughlin. The two-goal performance from Sheehy marked the second time in the senior’s career that he recorded multi-goal showings in back-to-back games (Dec. 2 and 3, 2016 against Ohio State).

The lead wouldn’t hold, however, as Michigan State closed out the period with two goals in just over a minute of play. Taro Hirose scored at 18:03, and Patrick Khodorenko followed suit at 19:14 to send the game into the second intermission knotted at 2-2. The Spartans added two more in the third with Brody Stevens scoring at 7:24 and Tommy Apap tallying at 9:42.

A late extra-attacker push by the Gophers was unsuccessful as the Spartans closed out the win.

Eric Schierhorn took the loss for Minnesota, making 18 saves to move to 1-3-0 on the year. Drew DeRidder picked up the win with 28 saves, moving to 1-3-0.

The Gophers outshot Michigan State 30-22 on the night, the fifth-straight game that the Maroon & Gold outshot their opponent. Minnesota went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and 2-for-4 on the power play.

The Gophers close out a six-game home stand next weekend with a Big Ten series against Ohio State at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

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