THE DATE: October 15, 2005
THE OPPONENT: The hated Wisconsin Badgers
THE MOMENT: Both the Badgers and Gophers entered their 115th annual game at 5-1 and potential Big Ten contenders. Wisconsin, which had won the Axe in the previous season's game, lost the previous week against Northwestern, while the Glen Mason-led Gophers had won the Little Brown Jug for the first time in 19 years at Michigan. Tensions were high. It was an important game.
Wisconsin jumped out to a 7-0 lead after a quarter, but Minnesota managed to tie the game at 10 by the half and methodically build a 27-17 lead at the end of the third quarter. The Badgers narrowed the lead back to 3 early in the fourth quarter on a Brian Calhoun touchdown dive, but a Gary Russell plunge restored Minnesota's double-digit lead with just 3:27 to go.
The Badgers responded quickly, going 71 yards in just 1:14 to make the score 34-31 with 2:06 to go. With a timeout in his pocket, coach Barry Alvarez kicked deep and played for a three-and-out. Laurence Maroney ran into the Wisconsin line three times, gained nine yards, and forced the Gophers to punt it away. With 35 seconds to go and Wisconsin out of time outs, all Minnesota had to do was punt the ball and survive two or three pass plays to win.
And then, Minnesota remembered it was Minnesota:
WIsconsin took home the Axe. Minnesota has not seen it since. Four weeks later, Iowa mollywhopped the Gophers to retain Floyd of Rosedale. Michigan beat the Gophers in Minneapolis the next year, and Monnesota's trophy case was empty again, as it is now and always should be.
TOMORROW: What happens when you give a Minnesotan a running start and an unfettered path to the end zone? Hilarity, that's what.