MINNEAPOLIS — Sayville's Jack Coan delivered two momentum-shifting touchdown passes and Jonathan Taylor added three touchdowns to his FBS-leading total, as No. 12 Wisconsin reasserted its recent dominance in the rivalry by beating No. 8 Minnesota, 38-17, on Saturday to advance to the Big Ten championship game.
“The worst feeling in the world was losing on our own field and having them take it [Paul Bunyan’s Axe],” said Badgers linebacker Chris Orr, who watched Gophers win, 37-15, last year to end a 14-game losing streak in the series. “The best feeling in the world is beating them on their home field on senior day and taking it from them.”
Quintez Cephus caught five passes for 114 yards, including a 47-yarder for a score midway through the third quarter that gave Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2) a 17-7 lead. Coan (Sayville) connected with Taylor for a 28-yard touchdown strike late in the second quarter that gave the Badgers the lead after a slow start, sending them on their way to a rematch with unbeaten and second-ranked Ohio State.
Taylor, the Heisman Trophy contender who had 200-plus rushing yards in each of his previous three games, had a quiet 76 yards on 18 carries.
Badgers coach Paul Chryst and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph called a shrewd game, though, with well-timed reverses and screen passes to put the Gophers on their heels after their first four possessions went nowhere. They caught Minnesota defensive end Carter Coughlin in coverage on the touchdown throw to Taylor after a safety blitz. When the safety help was slow after a late change of the call, Cephus exploited a matchup with linebacker Thomas Barber for his score.
“A lot of the plays were extremely well-drawn up. We just have to learn how to combat it better,” said Gophers defensive end Winston DeLattiboudere, one of six senior starters on the defense.
Coan went 15-for-22 for 280 yards, a career high for a Big Ten game, and he was not sacked.
“He was able to throw dimes down the field in these conditions,” Taylor said. “He has something special.”
Tanner Morgan passed for 296 yards and two touchdowns for the Gophers (10-2, 7-2). He had an interception and a lost fumble that turned into 10 points for the Badgers, who scored touchdowns on each of their first four drives in the second half. Two of them covered 90-plus yards.
“That’s all on me. I’ve just got to be better in the pocket and moving around,” said Morgan, who set the Minnesota season record with 2,975 passing yards.
The Gophers delivered the first blow on their second play of the game, when Bateman badly beat freshman cornerback Semar Melvin for a 51-yard score on a perfect strike from Morgan.
The Badgers responded with five sacks, giving them the fourth-most in the FBS (44) this season, harassing Morgan into plenty of off-balance and hastened throws.