Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe: Wisconsin Badgers’ best moments

The Wisconsin Badgers will go for their 13th straight win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday for the Battle of Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

In the longest running rivalry, and one of the most even series in college football, the Wisconsin Badgers will look to continue their dominance over their rivals from the west when the Minnesota Golden Gophers enter Camp Randall on Saturday.

The Gophers lead the all-time series by just one win, owning a 59-58-8 advantage over the Badgers, despite losing the last 12 meetings. The first matchup between the two came all the way back in 1890 when the Gophers handled the Badgers swimmingly, winning 63-0 in the inaugural rivalry game.

Saturday will be the rivalry’s 126th meeting and will have a lot at stake, especially for the Badgers. Wisconsin can win the Big Ten West and keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive with a victory, while Minnesota can improve to 9-3 overall on the season and end the drought versus the Badgers.

With a lot riding on the game, join us as we revisit some of the best moments in this historic rivalry.

All the way back in 1894 you have to go for the Badgers’ first victory over the Gophers. Quarterback Theron Lyman helped lead the Badgers to the 6-0 victory, snapping a four game losing streak to Minnesota and securing the team’s first win in the series.

Lyman played quarterback for the badgers from 1892-94 and was voted captain in each season he played. In ’94, only two current Big Ten teams were on the Badgers’ schedule, with one being Minnesota of course and the other being the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Before the current rivalry trophy of Paul Bunyan’s Axe, Minnesota and Wisconsin played for a slab of bacon. Yes, you read that right: bacon. Created in 1930, the trophy only lasted until 1943. It displayed a graphic in the middle of the piece that hung as a Wisconsin “W” or a Minnesota “M” depending on which way it was propped up.

As you can see, the word “bacon ” is carved in to each side of the trophy as well, which stands for the winning team “bringing home the bacon.” Now displayed in Camp Randall offices, the Badgers were the last team to win the slab after it was discontinued in 1943, despite the Gophers winning it 11 out of 14 times during its existence.

Paul Bunyan’s Axe was then implemented into the rivalry in 1948.

November 8, 2003: Minnesota 37, Wisconsin 34

The last time the Gophers had the Axe:

  • Kyle Orton was quarterback for a ranked Purdue Boilermakers team
  • The Ohio State Buckeyes won the national championship double overtime over the Miami Hurricanes. Maurice Clarett was running back for the Buckeyes and Willis McGahee was in the backfield for the Hurricanes
  • The Gophers were ranked, the Badgers were not.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccanneers defeated the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII
  • The Syracuse Orange won the National Championship in basketball behind freshman star Carmelo Anthony
  • Twitter was not yet invented, as pointed out so well by UW-Madison

October 15, 2005: Wisconsin 38, Minnesota 34

In one of the most memorable games in recent history, the Badgers shocked the Gophers and star running back duo Lawrence Marooney and Marion Barber III thanks to a blocked punt and fumble recovery in the end zone with under a minute to play that ended a fourth quarter comeback.

Jonathan Casillas blocked the punt and Ben Strickland recovered for the touchdown to erase a ten point deficit late in the fourth.

Just watch and enjoy.

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