Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 10/20/12
MADISON, Wis. Coming off two straight losses to open the Big Ten season, the University of Minnesota football team was hoping its fortunes would change Saturday as the Gophers took on rival Wisconsin. No so much, as the Badgers came away with a 38-13 win over the now 4-3 Gophers. Minnesota has now lost nine straight games to Wisconsin following the loss. Here are five things we learned from Saturday's game. 1. Paul Bunyan's Axe has a permanent home in Madison. The rivalry between Minnesota and Wisconsin is the longest-running series in the FBS. The Gophers and Badgers have played each other 122 times, dating back to 1890. But what was once a competitive rivalry has turned completely one-sided over the past decade. Saturday's win for the Badgers marked the ninth straight time Wisconsin has beaten the Gophers. After losing 38-13 on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Minnesota's winless streak in Madison continues. The Gophers haven't won a game in Madison since 1994, when they beat the Badgers by a 17-14 final. For Minnesota's seniors, there are no more chances to win Paul Bunyan's Axe, the trophy given annually to the winner. As Wisconsin's players paraded the Camp Randall field Saturday following their win, all the Gophers could do was watch and wonder what that feeling is like. "We wanted to go out there this year and bring it back home for the younger guys so they could know what it's like to have a trophy," said senior wide receiver MarQueis Gray. "For us to leave without the Axe, that's something that's going to be with us for the rest of our lives, us seniors. Hopefully the guys coming back next year get this taste out of their mouth by coming back to Minnesota or wherever they play next year for the Axe." 2. Stopping the run is still a big concern for the Gophers. Through two Big Ten games, Minnesota allowed Iowa and Northwestern to run all over the defense. Hawkeyes running back Mark Weisman gained 177 yards in Week 5, while Northwestern's Venric Mark picked up 182 yards last weekend. On Saturday, the Gophers gave up 337 total rushing yards. Minnesota was focused on stopping former Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball, but the senior running back had 166 yards and two touchdowns, including a 44-yard touchdown run. Meanwhile, junior James White had a big day as well. He carried 15 times for 175 yards and found the end zone three times. White's longest run of the day was a 48-yard score, and he also scored on a 34-yard run. Minnesota knew it would have its hands full against a Wisconsin team that likes to run the ball early and often, but the Gophers simply couldn't do anything to stop either tailback. "I think we have some disappointed players and coaches," Kill said of his team's run defense. "Give them credit, they physically keep coming at you. They did it to Purdue a week ago. They keep coming at you with those good backs and offensive line. . . . I think they just wore us down at the end of the day." 3. MarQueis Gray's future appears to be at wide receiver. With true freshman quarterback Philip Nelson making his first career start Saturday, it's clear that the Gophers will stick with Nelson now that they've burned his redshirt. So what does that mean for the other quarterbacks? For Gray, it likely means he'll spend the rest of the season at wide receiver, which is where he played Saturday. Gray is still recovering from an ankle injury but was healthy to line up at wide receiver. Gray spent his first two seasons at Minnesota as a wide receiver before transitioning back to quarterback last year. He hauled in three passes from Nelson for 20 yards. If the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Gray hopes to have a chance to play football at the next level, it will probably be at wide receiver. "Anywhere I have a chance to play in the NFL, then that's the thing I'm going to do," Gray said after the loss. "If I can play receiver at the next level, then that's what I'm going to play." 4. Seemingly lost in the wide receiver mix, senior Brandon Green can still contribute to the offense. Entering Saturday's game at Wisconsin, Green had yet to haul in a pass this season after catching 15 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown last year. He battled a knee injury in the offseason and said it's been nagging him throughout the year. But Green had the best game of any of Minnesota's receivers, catching three passes for 44 yards and a 16-yard touchdown from Nelson for the Gophers' first score of the game. Green also caught a pair of 14-yard passes from Nelson, who targeted the senior often. "It felt pretty good to just get back out there with my teammates and just play," Green said. "My knee had been bothering me all camp and all season, so it just felt great to be back out there and make plays like I'm used to." 5. Lauded for his arm, Nelson can do some damage with his feet. Nelson attempted 24 passes in his college debut Saturday, completing 13 for 149 yards. But the freshman also gained some yards on the ground. Nelson ran the ball a team-high 16 times, gaining 67 yards in the process. He ran the ball more times than the rest of the Gophers combined, who had 14 carries. There wasn't much to speak of for the rest of Minnesota's run game. Running back Rodrick Williams had 20 yards on six carries, while a hobbled Donnell Kirkwood ran five times for just eight yards. That left Nelson to shoulder the brunt of the rushing attack, and he was able to tuck the ball and run for a few first downs Saturday. "A lot of those are a check with a pass or situations (in the) short passing game," Kill said. "If it's not there, he pulls it down. . . . I thought his play was encouraging." Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
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