MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — What will it take to beat Wisconsin? The Gophers have been trying to figure that out for the last decade, or more.

The Badgers come to TCF Bank Stadium Saturday carrying the axe. The Gophers want it, and another trip to a bowl.

After last week’s victory over Illinois, the Gophers need just one more win to get over the .500 mark.

“I think if you look back at a lot of games we played in the season, a lot of guys on the team have been in situations like that before,” Gopher QB Mitch Leidner said. “And even some of the big games we’ve played in the year will help us coming this weekend against Wisconsin.”

Going into Saturday’s game, the Badgers are looking just a touch vulnerable. They don’t run the ball like they have in the past, and they look like they can be beat in the fourth quarter.

Sure, you’ve heard things like that before, but this game has a lot riding on it: The win would qualify the Gophers for another bowl, and it’s Senior Day.

“Here it is — the last hurrah,” Gopher Senior Jon Christenson said. “Hopefully we’ll win going into a bowl game. That’s obviously our goal, but it’s a very real sense as a senior, and it’s exciting to go out and play my tail off for the last time.”

The Badgers lost a heartbreaker at home last week to Northwestern, showing hints of their weakness — and that’s not lost on Gopher Head Coach Tracy Claeys.

“They’re not doing as much run stuff,” he said. “We notice it all the time — coaches do what their kids do well, and I think Paul [Chryst] is doing a good job of that. They’re throwing the ball more.”

And for a lot of the Gopher seniors, it could be the first time they’ve ever seen the axe in their entire football careers.

“I mean, it’s more than just two schools playing for each other,” Gopher DE Theiren Cockran said. “It’s basically like two states going head-to-head. It’s just a great rivalry, and it’s a pleasure to be a part of it, at the end of the day.”

Winning the Axe would be all the sweeter given that now-retired coach Jerry Kill will be in attendence for senior day, and for Epilepsy Awareness Day.

Mike Max