Posted by: marcmwm | November 13, 2008

You’re a (bleep) and it’s been a pleasure . . .

Badgers, Gophers grinding the axe

Badgers, Gophers grinding the axe

By Marc Morehouse

The Wisconsin-Minnesota game is primed for a bit of ugliness.

For the uninitiated, the two teams battle it out for the Paul Bunyan axe, a super-sized axe that would likely fit an eight- or nine-foot lumberjack. If there’s a transfer of axe, the winning team sprints to the loser’s sideline and then runs around the field with it. This is running with scissors times 10.

This is a match-up between two of the most type-A coaches in the Big Ten.

Of course you know Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema, the former Iowa defensive tackle. He sometimes coaches as though he’s still a defensive tackle. And then there’s Minnesota Coach Tim Brewster, who last season reportedly told a group of Minnesota fans the Gophers would beat Wisconsin and he would be the first member of the team to sprint across the field and retrieve the axe.

Bielema caught wind of this. When the Badgers won, 41-34, he sprinted across the field and greeted Brewster with a handshake that was more bleep-you than thank-you.

During last season’s game, Minnesota receiver Eric Decker, who’s sitting out this week with a high-ankle sprain, punched UW cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu in the groin at the end of a running play.

The UW-UM game is a border battle, but it’s also a battle for recruits. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Bielema talked in a radio interview last year about being able to recruit any Minnesota kid he wanted. One of the best offensive weapons the Gophers will defend Saturday is sophomore David Gilreath, the all-purpose player from Armstrong (Minn.) High School. He de-committed from Minnesota and went to Wisconsin shortly after former coach Glen Mason was fired.

“Stuff like that happens when it is a nasty rivalry like that,” UW sophomore wide receiver David Gilreath, a Minnesota native who chose the Badgers over the Gophers during an intense recruiting battle, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week. “When you get a nasty rivalry . . . scratching, clawing, punching, grabbing . . . things like that happen to try and get the win.”

Brewster, whose high-octane intensity makes for great sideline camera shots, isn’t placing bounties on heads. He is putting the Bunyan Axe at the top of the Gophers’ list of trophy games, which includes the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy, up for grabs when the Hawkeyes visit the Metrodome next week in the final UM game there.

“The feeling is not underplayed between the states,” Brewster told Minneapolis-area reporters Sunday, referring to Wisconsin. “All our trophy games are big games, important games. This one is more important than the rest of them.”

Iowa fans might’ve been the first ones to see this coming.

After the Hawkeyes dispatched Iowa State, 21-7, during Bielema’s senior season in 1992, he met Cyclones coach Jim Walden during the postgame handshake and said, “You’re a big prick. It’s been a pleasure kicking your ass the last five years.”

Iowa officials later reprimanded Bielema and sent letter of apology to Walden and Iowa State. Bielema sent a telegram.

Fast forward to last season, after beating Minnesota, Bielema’s most pointed comment after the game: “You want a rivalry, you got one.”

This year, Bielema is a little less emotional. But hey, it’s only Thursday.

“It’s a rivalry game, and it’s a border game,” Bielema said. “We don’t have an in-state rival, just the same as Minnesota doesn’t. This game represents tremendous history and it’s really not a hard sell to convince our players how important it is for us to keep the axe on our sideline.”

If history serves and the Gophers lose, Brewster might want to avoid Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi, a Wisconsin native who did nothing to hide his hatred for Minnesota.

“Minnesota is my most despised team,” the sophomore said. “If I want to win against anyone, it is them.”

Interference or not?

Penn State Coach Joe Paterno declined to criticized Big Ten officiating for a costly pass interference penalty called against his defense in Saturday’s 24-23 loss at Iowa.

The call was against senior safety Anthony Scirrotto. He was flagged after running into the back of wide receiver Trey Stross on a third-and-15 play from Iowa’s 24. The penalty gave Iowa a first down at its 39. The drive eventually turned into Daniel Murray’s 31-yard field goal with one second left on the clock.

The loss knocked the Nittany Lions (9-1) from national title conversation.

“I thought it was a bang-bang call … it could have gone either way,” Paterno said. “The pass interference, I don’t know, that would be a tough call.”

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t have much to say about the penalty.

“They had one, we had one,” he said. “It’s part of football. If a team has a penalty, it’s a penalty.”



  1. Personally, I don’t think that PSU defender should have gotten the pass Interference as a defender should have right to go for ball..but that said, I think the way the game is called, it IS pass Interference and will get called probably 70-80% of the time that way. Besides, PSU had ample opportunity to stop Iowa after that.

    How much of that roughing the punter was due to the punter intentionally trying to force contact?..that punter was flopping earlier in game trying to get the same call.

  2. The roughing the kicker/punter penalty was a fluke. On instant replay, it didn’t look like a penalty. Live, it did. The punter flopped, but that’s his job. I’d be doing the same exact thing.

  3. Pass interference? Aw, c’mon. That was FLAGRANT. Yes, the defense has a right to the ball, but the defender cannot flatten the intended receiver in that effort. It was NOT even close. It was OBVIOUS live, and even MORE obvious in replay. Gimme a break…

    But the “roughing the kicker penalty,” now THERE’s a legitimate question. The rule states
    that “running into” the kicker is a 5-yard penalty. And the rule further states, “A kicker or holder simulating being roughed or run into by a defensive player commits an unsportsmanlike act.” And it also says, “Incidental contact with a kicker or holder is NOT a foul.”

    The WORST thing that should have happened on that PSU punt was a 5-yard “running into” penalty, which would NOT have resulted in a 1st down and PSU would still have had to punt.

    The far better call would have been NO CALL based on the “incidental contact” portion of the rule.

    But if the official had called what ACTUALLY happened, it would have been “unsportsmanlike” against the PSU kicker, as the rule clearly describes EXACTLY what happened on that play. The video is absolutely clear. Even the horrible Bob Griese alluded to that on the ABC telecast by admitting the PSU kicker had “kind of held his leg out there” so Sandeman would make contact.

    I think Joe needs a new prescription on his glasses if he’s questioning the obvious pass interference and has nothing to say about the blatant error in judgment the officials made on the “roughing the kicker,” a cheap, cheap call that — had PSU been good enough — would have cost Iowa the upset.

  4. I can’t believe I am saying this but I want to watch Minny and Wisky play. Hopefully those two nitwits can throw down afterwards? Probably won’t but it would be good nizzle wouldn’t it?

  5. Gophers v. Badgers? Yep. Timmy v. Jimmy in another classic Big 11 game. Woo hoo.

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