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A closer look at the Minnesota Gophers loss to Wisconsin

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The Minnesota Golden Gophers fell to the Wisconsin Badgers 20-7 Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

The Gophers took a 7-3 lead when Aaron Hill intercepted Joel Stave and took it back 39 yards for a touchdown.

The Badgers countered with 10 points late in the second quarter to take a 13-7 lead into half.

The Gophers offense failed to get into a rhythm and turned the ball over three times on fumbles and twice in the fourth quarter on downs.

The game was over when…Philip Nelson completed a pass to David Cobb for five yards on a fourth-and-10 play with just under five minutes remaining in the game. The Gophers had the ball inside the Badgers’ 20-yard line down by 13 points, but could not finish the drive. The Badgers got a couple first downs and never gave the ball back to the Gophers.

The game turned in the Badgers favor when…Zac Epping committed a false start penalty in the second quarter that created a first-and-15. Two plays later, Nelson was stripped while trying to throw a pass. The Gophers were ahead 7-3 at that point and had just started getting into an offensive rhythm. The Badgers took possession at midfield and scored their first touchdown of the game. They never trailed again.

The reason for optimism is…that without the self-inflicted mistakes, the Gophers likely would have won. The Badgers played a near perfect game and did not pull away. The Gophers did not take care of the ball, missed a wide open receiver, committed unforced penalties and were still in the game late in the fourth quarter.

The reason to worry is…that the Gophers committed a lot of unforced errors. The Gophers entered the game on a roll because they were taking care of the ball and not making negative plays. When they had the chance to prove they could play with the best in the conference, they couldn’t get it done.

The outlook going forward is…that it appears the Gophers will have to beat Michigan State on Saturday to avoid playing in the Texas Bowl again this season. The Gophers will be overlooked in the bowl pecking order without getting a bigger resume building win.

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