No. 8 Wisconsin 26, Minnesota 7
MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ The Wisconsin Badgers may be flawed but their season remains perfect.
Behind Matt Davenport’s school record-tying four field goals, the eighth-ranked Badgers improved to 9-0 for the first time since 1901 by beating the Minnesota Gophers 26-7 Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
Next up for the unblemished Badgers is a trip to No. 22 Michigan, which also has a 6-0 Big Ten mark.
The Gophers (4-5, 1-5) failed to stain Wisconsin’s perfect season as they did to the Badgers’ Rose Bowl run five years ago, managing only 24 yards on 28 carries against the nation’s second-best rushing defense.
Wisconsin had its troubles putting the ball into the end zone and settled for field goals of 35, 48, 18 and 22 yards.
Ron Dayne rushed 35 times for 133 hard-earned yards against the nation’s fifth-ranked rushing defense and became the first Wisconsin player with three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Billy Marek in 1973-75.
Dayne, who scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter, also gave the Badgers a 1,000-yard rusher for the sixth straight season. He has eight straight 100-yard games after missing the opener with a sprained ankle.
After splitting tight games with Michigan State and Michigan, the Gophers trailed just 10-7 at halftime. They hung in by virtue of one big offensive play and outstanding defense that limited Dayne to 48 yards on 16 carries.
With Dayne getting stuffed, quarterback Mike Samuel completed four passes for 58 yards on an 11-play, 74-yard touchdown drive that made it 10-0 when Dayne rumbled in from two yards out with 6:28 left in the second quarter.
The Gophers struck back on a 53-yard touchdown pass from Billy Cockerham to Luke Leverson a minute later. Freshman cornerback Jamar Fletcher bit on the fake and Cockerham hit Leverson at the 25 and he ran untouched to make it 10-7.
On Wisconsin’s next snap, Samuel was hit by linebacker Parc Williams as he threw, sending the ball into the hands of Minnesota linebacker Sean Hoffman at the Wisconsin 20. But it didn’t matter.
Right tackle Eric Mahlik deflected Cockerham’s first-down pass, left tackle Ross Kolodziej, returning from a knee injury to boost an already outstanding line, dropped Thomas Hamner for a 6-yard loss and linebacker Chris Ghidorzi hurried Cockerham on third down to force a punt, and Minnesota would never gain the lead.
Davenport’s first field goal, from 35 yards, followed Jason Doering’s interception and made it 3-0. His 48-yard attempt in the third quarter hit the crossbar and bounced over for a 13-7 lead.
On the next play from scrimmage, Fletcher tipped Cockerham’s pass into Ghidorzi’s arms at the Minnesota 28, then he fumbled at the 23, where teammate John Favret recovered. That led to Davenport’s 18-yarder and a 16-7 lead.
Fletcher’s diving interception on the Gophers’ next possession led to another short field goal by Davenport, this one from 22 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter, making it 19-7.
After Cockerham’s fourth interception, this by freshman cornerback Mike Echols at the Wisconsin 28, Samuel scampered in from 10 yards out to make it 26-7, and wide receiver Ryan Keller replaced Cockerham at quarterback.