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Minnesota's defense holds strong to kill No. 14 Wisconsin's title chances

Wisconsin (8-4, 6-3 Big Ten), which had won seven straight games to climb to No. 14 in the College Football Playoff poll, would have won the Big Ten West with a victory.

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Minnesota Gophers players rush to celebrate with the Paul Bunyan trophy after their victory against the Wisconsin Badgers at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Harrison Barden / USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Tanner Morgan directed a pair of second-half touchdown drives, and Minnesota's defense held Wisconsin in check for a 23-13 upset on Saturday, Nov. 27, denying the visiting Badgers a berth in the Big Ten championship game.

Wisconsin (8-4, 6-3 Big Ten), which had won seven straight games to climb to No. 14 in the College Football Playoff poll, would have won the Big Ten West with a victory. Instead, the Badgers finished in a three-way tie for second place with Minnesota (8-4, 6-3) and Purdue (8-4, 6-3), one game behind No. 16 Iowa (10-2, 7-2), which will face No. 5 Michigan in the conference title game next Saturday.

Morgan capped a 74-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Chris Autman-Bell to put the Gophers up 20-13 with 1:56 left in the third quarter. Morgan kept the drive alive with a 27-yard completion to Dylan Wright on third-and-10 to the Badgers 35.

Wisconsin's Collin Larsh hit the crossbar with a 48-yard field-goal attempt with 11:44 remaining. Matthew Trickett's 36-yard field goal, his third of the game, put the Gophers in front 23-13 with 6:08 left.

Morgan completed 11 of 16 passes for 199 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

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Minnesota Golden Gophers wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell (7) outraces Wisconsin Badgers cornerback Faion Hicks (1) to score the go-ahead touchdown during the third quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Minnesota won 23-13. Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK
USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota held the Badgers to 233 yards of total offense, including 62 on the ground. Wisconsin averaged 267.1 rushing per game during its winning streak. Freshman Braelon Allen, who had seven consecutive 100-yard rushing games, was held to 47 yards on 17 carries. Graham Mertz completed 21 of 38 passes for 171 yards and one interception for the Badgers.

The Badgers' only touchdown came on Scott Nelson's 25-yard interception return in the second quarter for a 10-3 lead. Wisconsin had won eight consecutive times at Minnesota in the rivalry battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe, last won by the Gophers at home in 2003.

Nelson's pick six was Wisconsin's 20th takeaway in eight games. Trickett's 31-yard field goal cut the lead to 10-6 midway through the second quarter.

Minnesota capitalized on an interception on the opening possession of the second half to go in front 13-10. Justin Walley wrestled the ball away from receiver Kendric Pryor for a first down at the Badgers 28. Morgan hit Brevyn Spann-Ford for 26 yards on the first play and Ky Thomas then skirted right end from 2 yards out.

Wisconsin drove from its own 25 to the Gophers 9 but had to settle for Larsh's 28-yard field goal to make it 13-13.

The Gophers opened their scoring with a 14-play, 65-yard drive that chewed up 7:31, culminating in Trickett's 28-yard field goal. Wisconsin safety Collin Wilder was ejected on the first play after being called for targeting.

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Wisconsin responded with an 85-yard drive of almost 10 minutes that ended with Larsh's 25-yard field goal.

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