MINNEAPOLIS -- John Clay rushed for three touchdowns and gained 159 of his 184 yards in the second half, helping Wisconsin hang on for a 31-28 win over Minnesota on Saturday.
The Badgers (5-0 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) beat the Gophers for the sixth straight time, picking up Paul Bunyan's Axe and parading it around the stadium after Adam Weber lost a fumble at his own 24-yard line with 30 seconds left to kill Minnesota's last-chance drive.
The Gophers (3-2, 1-1) have a new home, but the game had a familiar feel: They lost to their border rival after failing to stop the run.
Clay reminded the Big Ten that Wisconsin is a run-first team, despite quarterback Scott Tolzien's early season success.
Tolzien rumbled 47 yards on a designed rollout to set up Clay's third score with 3 minutes left after Marcus Sherels pulled Minnesota within 24-21 on an 88-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Wisconsin stayed unbeaten by rushing for 295 yards, taking advantage of three Minnesota turnovers. Nine penalties, totaling 75 yards, hurt the home team, too. Weber went 16 for 30 for 271 yards and a touchdown to Eric Decker, but he didn't have much time to throw, and again hurt the Gophers by giving up the ball in crucial situations.
Tolzien wasn't great, but he did enough. Wisconsin converted eight of 13 third downs and toughened up the defense near the goal line in the first half to force the Gophers to settle for a pair of short field goals by Eric Ellestad.
It was Wisconsin's first road game, a suddenly tough ticket for Badgers backers to get now that the Gophers play at sold-out TCF Bank Stadium after 27 seasons downtown in the Metrodome. There, rivalry games were at least half-filled by visiting fans.
At the new stadium, though plenty of red was mixed in among the maroon and gold, Minnesota actually had a true home-field advantage. Goldy Gopher did his part: The furry mascot taunted the few thousand Wisconsin fans before the start of the fourth quarter by putting on a purple Brett Favre jersey.
The facility was more soggy than sparkling for the game, with a cold drizzle at kickoff. Perhaps because of the wetness, Duane Bennett lost the ball on Minnesota's opening drive on a hit by safety Chris Maragos and the Badgers took over at their 41.
Their first possession was met with little resistance, finishing on Clay's 2-yard run for an early 7-0 lead.
In the third quarter, the Badgers did the same. Weber's third-down pass to the flat bounced off DeLeon Eskridge and into the hands of diving defensive tackle Patrick Butrym for the interception.
The Badgers then found a soft spot on the right side of the Minnesota defense and gave Clay six carries on that ensuing drive. He gained 53 yards, including a 1-yard burst to put Wisconsin in front 17-13 late in the third quarter.
The Gophers drove 80 yards in three plays after falling behind by 10 points again and forced a punt to get the ball back at their own 5 with 1:43 remaining in the game. They had no timeouts, though, and didn't get very far before Weber's fumble.
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