Scores

Final

(18) Wisconsin 42

(8-2, 4-2 Big Ten)

Minnesota 13

(2-8, 1-5 Big Ten)

Coverage: BTN

3:30 PM ET, November 12, 2011

TCF Bank Stadium, MINNEAPOLIS, MN

1 2 3 4 T
#18WIS 14 14 7 742
MINN 0 6 7 013

Top Performers

Passing: R. Wilson (WIS) - 178 YDS, 4 TD

Rushing: M. Ball (WIS) - 23 CAR, 166 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: N. Toon (WIS) - 8 REC, 100 YDS, 2 TD

Wisconsin runs past Minnesota to keep Paul Bunyan's Axe

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Whether the distraction was out-of-town scores, remarkable statistics or long-standing records, Wisconsin refused to lose focus.

That perspective has kept the Badgers in position to win the Big Ten despite consecutive crushing losses last month.

Montee Ball set the conference's single-season touchdown record and Wisconsin (No. 18 BCS, No. 16 AP) trampled Minnesota 42-13 on Saturday to keep Paul Bunyan's Axe for the eighth straight year.

"Back in the driver's seat now. We control our own fate," Ball said.

Russell Wilson had a season-high four touchdown passes. He was on target with every throw and every decision, connecting on all but his last pass, a deep ball that Nick Toon had in his hands but let slip out when he hit the turf hard midway through the third quarter.

Toon finished with eight catches for 100 yards and two scores, and Wilson went 16 for 17 for 178 yards.

"I messed it up for him, but nobody's perfect," Toon said, smiling.

The Badgers outgained the Gophers in total yards 461-156 and had 29 first downs to their rival's nine on an unseasonably warm afternoon with a kickoff temperature in the low 60s. Wisconsin, which lead the FBS level in red zone scoring, has reached the end zone 45 times in 52 trips inside the 20-yard line this season.

Yes, it was an ideal day all around for the Badgers (8-2, 4-2).

They have two blemishes on their record -- last-second defeats at Michigan State and Ohio State -- that ended their national championship chase, but thanks to losses Saturday by Leaders Division foes Penn State and Ohio State they can reach the Big Ten title game. They need to win at Illinois next week and beat the Nittany Lions on Nov. 26.

Coach Bret Bielema didn't want his players' minds to stray, so he didn't share the results until afterward.

"We have to concentrate on being in the moment. That's the way we will do it," Bielema said.

Well, some of them sneaked a peek at the scoreboard during the game, but that didn't seem to matter.

"I was like, 'Oh, cool.' I didn't really pay attention. We had to take care of business here," right guard Kevin Zeitler said.

Wilson had the same attitude. He said he barely noticed he didn't have an incompletion after halftime.

"You just want to stay in the now. That's what I talk about all the time. You've just got to have amnesia, no matter how great things are going or how bad things are going," Wilson said.

Then there was Ball, who found plenty of gaping holes behind that gargantuan, Wisconsin-born offensive line and gained 166 yards on 23 carries. He acknowledged his realization that the record was in reach.

When Ball crossed the goal line for his third touchdown -- he ran for two and caught one pass for a score -- of the day, he gripped the ball tightly and carried the souvenir to the sideline to thank his blockers.

"I usually don't do that, but something I really pride myself on is working hard, and I think that's what that record stands for, just finishing and working extremely hard," Ball said.

In 10 games, Ball has 27 total touchdowns. The previous Big Ten mark was shared previously by Pete Johnson (Ohio State, 1975), Anthony Thompson (Indiana, 1988) and Ki-Jana Carter (Penn State, 1994). Ball is 12 scores behind Barry Sanders' NCAA record.

The Gophers (2-8, 1-5) scored twice on special teams, a 5-yard run by kicker Jordan Wettstein on a fake field goal and a 96-yard return of the second half kickoff by Duane Bennett, but they were dominated on both sides of the ball all day.

The yardage at the end of the first quarter was 189 for Wisconsin and minus-1 for Minnesota.

"It wasn't like they did anything that was big trickery," Gophers coach Jerry Kill said. "They just out-executed us."

MarQueis Gray, after his two best games of the season, missed a wide-open John Rabe with a floating pass in the second quarter that was intercepted at the Wisconsin 22 and turned by Wilson into a five-play, 78-yard touchdown march in the closing minutes of the half.

Gray looked gimpy when he scrambled -- Kill said he had a bad back -- and also undoubtedly had a lot on his mind, as a new father. His girlfriend gave birth to twin boys on Friday. Gray finished 6 for 14 for 51 yards and ran 19 times for 68 yards.

"They didn't do anything we didn't prepare for. They were just the better team," Gray said.

The Gophers were going to need some good luck to keep this game close, given the discrepancy in talent, but they didn't get much of that.

Dan Orseske's punt later in the first quarter bounced backward and netted just 4 yards, setting up Wisconsin for an easy score on a shortened field. Then after Wettstein -- the walk-on who didn't even play for his high school team in DePere, Wis. -- caught a slick between-the-legs lateral from holder Adam Lueck and slipped out of a tackle near the sideline to plunge into the end zone, he pulled the extra point wide left.

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Team Stat Comparison

 
WIS
MINN
1st Downs299
Total Yards461156
Passing17851
Rushing283105
Penalties3-303-20
3rd Down Conversions7-106-13
4th Down Conversions0-02-3
Turnovers01
Possession34:3925:21

Passing Leaders

WisconsinC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Wilson16/1717810.540
MinnesotaC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Gray6/14513.601

Rushing Leaders

WisconsinCARYDSAVGTDLG
Ball231667.2229
White14876.2019
MinnesotaCARYDSAVGTDLG
Gray19683.6013
Bennett8202.505

Receiving Leaders

WisconsinRECYDSAVGTDLG
Toon810012.5221
Abbrederis22713.5014
MinnesotaRECYDSAVGTDLG
McKnight4348.5012
McGarry11212.0012

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERWISMINN
TD06:52Montee Ball 5 Yd Pass From Russell Wilson (Philip Welch Kick) 70
TD04:27Montee Ball 14 Yd Run (Philip Welch Kick) 140
SECOND QUARTERWISMINN
TD14:54Nick Toon 9 Yd Pass From Russell Wilson (Philip Welch Kick) 210
TD07:41Jordan Wettstein 5 Yd Run (Pat Failed) 216
TD00:51Nick Toon 17 Yd Pass From Russell Wilson (Philip Welch Kick) 286
THIRD QUARTERWISMINN
TD14:46Duane Bennett 96 Yd Kickoff Return (Jordan Wettstein Kick) 2813
TD08:58Jacob Pedersen 3 Yd Pass From Russell Wilson (Philip Welch Kick) 3513
FOURTH QUARTERWISMINN
TD09:07Montee Ball 3 Yd Run (Philip Welch Kick) 4213