The Gophers’ hopes and dreams of winning the West’s Big Ten were dashed on Friday.
Minnesota needed a four-team draw to take first place in the division to hit the tiebreak and head to the Big Ten championship next week. The first domino did not fall.
U needed Nebraska to beat Iowa’s 16th position in Lincoln, Nebraska on Friday, but the Kornhuskers missed out on a third-quarter lead 21-6, losing to the Hawkeyes 28-21 (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten.).
Minnesota also required Purdue to beat Indiana on Saturday in addition to their own victory over Wisconsin No. 14 in the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Ax at 3:00 pm Saturday at Huntington Bank Stadium.
Now “Gophers” (7-4, 5-3) can only keep Barsukov (8-3, 6-2) from entering the conference title game with a victory over their rivals. If Wisconsin wins, they will break the draw with Iowa for a head-to-head victory in October.
Gophers head coach PJ Fleck said he is working to prevent this situation from creating “sad people” on Friday night. He talked to his players about how to approach this.
“We kind of ignore it, really,” Fleck insisted. “The only target is the Ax. It’s not about the championship or the West, or something like that. “
In early November, the Gophers dominated the division until losses to Illinois and Iowa forced them to rely on different results.
“A few weeks ago, we let it get out of our control because of how we lost the game,” Fleck said. “We had control, and now there is no control. What we really control is how we play against Wisconsin, and that’s the only thing we’re going to talk about. “
The Gophers, a seven-point underdog, could win Ax for the first time since 2003. The win will also be the second in four years, including a 35-17 win in Madison, Wisconsin in 2018.
“The ax is what matters,” Fleck continued. “The Ax is the Ax, and this is what this week is about.”