Wisconsin has been running roughshod over the Big Ten since a disheartening loss to Ohio State almost two months ago.
When its ground game faced a surprisingly spirited challenge from upstart Minnesota, all the Badgers had to do was lean on that bone-crushing defense to win their sixth in a row.
James White rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown and No. 16 Wisconsin beat Minnesota for the 10th straight time in a 20-7 victory on Saturday.
Jared Abbrederis had seven catches for 67 yards and a touchdown and Chris Borland recovered two fumbles and forced one to tie the NCAA record for career fumbles caused. After the game, the Badgers (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) hoisted Paul Bunyan's Axe and used it to chop the Gophers goal post when time ran out.
"We knew we'd won nine straight and 10 is kind of a solid number there, it's been a good decade for us," Borland said. "We're very proud of our tradition and we've had guys from those previous teams come back and speak with us. We're proud to build on it."
The Badgers forced three turnovers and held Minnesota to 185 total yards to dash any hopes the Gophers had of ending the longest losing streak in a rivalry that dates to 1890.
Aaron Hill returned an interception for a touchdown and David Cobb rushed for 68 yards for the Golden Gophers (8-3, 4-3). But Philip Nelson completed just 7 of 23 passes for 83 yards and the Gophers couldn't get anything going against that Badgers defense.
"That's the most underrated football team in the country," said Gophers coach Jerry Kill, who spent the day in the coaches' box, just as he has the previous four games since returning from a leave of absence to treat his epilepsy.
Joel Stave was 16 for 26 for 127 yards with one touchdown and one interception for Wisconsin, which is unbeaten since falling to Ohio State on Sept. 28. Borland's strip of Cobb midway through the third quarter gave him 14 forced fumbles for his career, which ties him with five other players for the FBS record.
One of the nation's top linebackers, Borland was all over the field. He had 12 tackles, Brendan Kelly added two sacks and the Badgers held an opponent under 10 points for the seventh time this season. Only Alabama has done it more.
The Badgers have thoroughly dominated this rivalry lately, a run that has clearly started to wear thin with the Gophers.
After the Badgers pretended to chop down one goal post, they started to cross the field toward the other end. The Gophers encircled the goalpost in front of their student section and refused to let the Badgers do it to the other one. There was some pushing and shoving, but the confrontation ended without incident.
"It's a pride thing," Nelson said.
Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen was the most vocal about the situation, saying he wasn't pleased with campus police getting involved and pushing the Badgers away from the fray.
"Do we want them down there, do we want to get in those situations? No, we don't want to get in those situations," Andersen said. "But you're supposed to carry yourself like an adult in those scenarios. I don't need somebody pointing a finger in my face when supposedly it's their job to take advantage of to protect and be the security for the stadium I suppose. It makes me mad."
For the first time in recent memory, there was some hype surrounding this late-season meeting in the most-played rivalry in the country. The Gophers had reeled off four straight Big Ten victories for the first time since 1973 and entered the game brimming with confidence.
The Badgers steamrolled into TCF Bank Stadium after racking up a staggering 554 yards rushing against Indiana last week. White took the opening handoff for 49 yards, but the Gophers defense stiffened after that.
Hill returned his interception 39 yards for a score and a 7-3 Gophers lead early in the second quarter.
But just when the Gophers appeared to be grabbing control of the game with the ball in Wisconsin territory, Kelly sacked Nelson and forced a fumble that Borland pounced on to end the threat. White ripped off a 19-yard run and punched it in five plays later to give the Badgers a 10-7 lead late in the second quarter.
The Badgers came out of halftime with a 12-play, 83-yard drive that chewed up 7:05, culminating in a 2-yard TD from Stave to Abbrederis to make it 20-7 and knock the wind out of a juiced up stadium.
"Our defense played amazing again; they saved us," Badgers guard Ryan Groy said. "We played well as an offense, but we can play better."