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For Wisconsin's seniors, this is the final Big Ten game and the final battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe . A win will not only put them above .500 for the first time in four weeks, but it will also qualify them for a bowl game. As far as conference standings are, the Badgers only have one thing on their minds today... keeping Paul Bunyan's Axe. The annual Wisconsin-Minnesota Border Battle is the longest rivalry in FBS college football. The Badgers are 34-24-3 all-time against Minnesota and have dominated their latest battles, winning the past four matchups. Everyone on Wisconsin's roster has had the Axe every year they were with the Badgers... and they won't want to give it up now. Last year, Wisconsin (8-3) traveled to the Metrodome and took on a struggling Minnesota (1-10) team. The Badgers barely survived, winning 41-34.

"The axe sits in our trophy case, down in our locker room," senior defensive tackle Mike Newkirk said. "It's like if someone were to break into your home trying to take something that's yours. You wouldn't just let him walk out the front door with it."

"Whenever you get a Minnesota game, you've got to throw away the records," senior linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. "Like last year, they're going to come out swinging no matter how good or bad they're doing during the year; it's going to be a competitive game." Last season, Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker killed the Wisconsin defense for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Decker was being defended often by Jack Ikegwuonu (now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles). Gophers head coach Tim Brewster has said Decker will not play tomorrow because of a nagging high ankle sprain. The Badgers will believe it when they see it. In Casillas' freshman season in 2005, he blocked a punt in the 4th quarter. Then Ben Strickland fell on the ball in the end zone, giving the Badgers the lead. That punt-block was the difference in Wisconsin's 38-34 comeback victory.

"He's probably going to play because of the impact of this game," Casillas said. "We want their best team to come here, and that would include him," Newkirk added. "So we hope he does play.".

Wisconsin is coming off a convincing 55-20 win over Indiana last week. The Badger defense held the Hoosiers to 0 points for the entire second half. Three of the Badgers' five losses this season were games in which they surrendered fourth-quarter leads. "It [Paul Bunyan's Axe] means everything," Newkirk said. "It's something that's concrete, it's real. It gives the game a physical aspect. It's a lot easier for guys to relate when they have something that they can carry around." "I didn't get to grab it my freshman year," Casillas said. "They kept it away from me, the seniors, but it felt good last year chopping the goalpost down in the Metrodome." "I just like getting that axe," Casillas said.

      

 

Posted by: LP | Saturday, November 15, 2008

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