Minnesota Wins Axe for Second Straight Year

Jacob Gregor, President

On Saturday, November 26, the Minnesota Gopher football team beat the Wisconsin Badgers to bring the axe back to Minnesota for the second year in a row. With Tanner Morgan out of the game, the Gophers needed a big start from Athan Kaliakmanis, and he delivered. Kaliakmanis threw for 319 yards in the air, which was the first time a Gopher has thrown for more than 300 yards since Tanner Morgan did in 2019. This happened 34 games previously, according to FanNation.com. File:Original 1948 Paul Bunyan's Axe.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

With a steady back and forth game, the Wisconsin Badgers went up 16 – 13 entering the fourth quarter. With the defense standing strong, Kaliakmanis was able to get the Gophers within field goal range for Mathew Trickett to tie the game up at 16 with a 27 yard field goal. After the field goal, the Minnesota defense remained strong to force a 3 & out, allowing for Kaliakmanis to yield a successful drive, capping it off with a 45 yard touchdown pass to Le’Meke Brockington to take the lead at 23 – 16. 

After taking the lead, Wisconsin looked to tie it up with a score late in the 4th. Justin Walley of the Gophers had other things to say about this, intercepting Graham Mertz’ pass and returning the ball all the way to the Wisconsin 35. With only 2:48 left on the clock, this seemed to favor the Gophers to bring the axe home again. 

Minnesota ended up missing the field goal to go up by 10, but Graham Mertz was unable to tie the game up as the clock ran out of time. This brings the all-time series of Paul Bunyan’s axe games to 62-62-8 for both teams. 

As the final regular season game for the Gophers ended the way every Minnesotan would have wanted it to, they finished the season with a record of 8-4, finishing in second place in the Big Ten – West preceded by the Purdue Boilermakers. With that being said, the Gophers would have had the chance to play the Michigan Wolverines for the Big Ten Championship if they had not lost to Purdue with a score of 20 – 10 on October 1. 

Although the season finished with a very positive note, especially with freshman Kaliakmanis showing up, the Gophers came so close to their first Big Ten Championship game since the 20th century. 

Minnesota’s record this year has made them bowl eligible, with them being selected and accepted to play in the Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl. This game will be played in the world renowned Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York City. It will be played on Thursday, December 29, where the Gophers will take on the Syracuse Orange. 

The Syracuse Orange finished the regular season with a record of 7-5. A very notable game that was played this season by Syracuse is beating Purdue on September 17 in the beginning of the season, with a score of 32 – 29. Syracuse is led by Garrett Shrader at quarterback, who amounted to 2,310 passing yards this season. IMG_0160 | Peter Roan | Flickr

It will be very interesting to see who plays for Minnesota in the bowl game, and if arguably the best running back in Minnesota Gopher franchise history, Mohamed Ibrahim, will show up for one last time for the Gophers. P.J. Fleck also is faced with the decision of starting Tanner Morgan or Athan Kaliakmanis. Tanner Morgan has suited up for Minnesota since the 2018 season. It may also be his last game as well. This game has the opportunity to be a great one, with many bittersweet goodbyes to Gopher Football players who have made the University of Minnesota their home over their collegiate careers. The Gophers finished the season on a very strong note, and I look forward to seeing what these football players have in store for them as they exit this program, and for what is in store for the program in the future.