Everything was set up for a breakout party for the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday as they hosted the Wisconsin Badgers, but the fun came to a crashing halt in a demoralizing 38-17 blowout loss that Minnesota sports fans have come to know all too well.
The mauling came after a day of partying alongside ESPN's "College GameDay" amid a winter storm, and left the Gophers with sidewalks to shovel while the Badgers reclaimed Paul Bunyan's Axe and a spot in the coveted Big Ten Championship Game against No. 1 Ohio State.
Wisconsin could earn a trip to the College Football Playoff by beating Ohio State, while a loss would likely still get them into the Rose Bowl. Minnesota might be bound for the Citrus Bowl, an honorable invitation but nothing close to what could've been with a victory over their border rival.
Things got off to a promising start for Minnesota as the Gophers forced a three-and-out and capitalized with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Morgan to Rashod Bateman for a 7-0 lead.
Unlike the last premier game against Penn State at TCF Bank Stadium, the Gophers couldn't build off that start as Wisconsin bullied them the rest of the game. After the Badgers cut the lead to 7-3, they took the lead with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Jack Coan to Jonathan Taylor with 2:49 left in the second quarter.
Without right tackle Daniel Faalele, who was carted to the locker room after suffering an injury in the first half, the Badgers applied constant pressure on Morgan to control the game defensively, then blew the game open with their passing game as Coan found Quintez Cephus for a 47-yard touchdown pass to go up 17-7.
The Gophers made a stand to try to get back into the game with a Michael Lantz field goal and a 14-play drive that had them at the goal line early in the fourth quarter. But the drive stalled out with a pair of heaves to the end zone and the Badgers struck with a death blow with a pair of big plays that led to a rushing touchdown from Taylor to effectively put the game away.
Minnesota fell to 10-2 with the loss and now will wait to see where they will head for their bowl game. The loss to Wisconsin likely drops the Gophers out of Rose Bowl contention, but it's still possible they could be selected as an at-large for another New Year's Six bowl.