INDIANAPOLIS — A highlight of the Gophers’ 2021 football season was the playing of the Wisconsin Badgers’ adopted song “Jump Around” at Huntington Bank Stadium after Minnesota’s 23-13 win in November. Maroon-and-gold-clad fans stormed the field and danced to the House of Pain song.
Badgers linebacker Nick Herbig wasn’t in a festive mood about that on Wednesday at Big Ten Media Days.
“It left a sour taste in my mouth,” Herbig, a preseason All-American, said inside Lucas Oil Stadium. “We just got outplayed, man. It’s simple. But it’s not going to happen again. That’s for sure.”
This year’s Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe is Nov. 26 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.
It will feature an all-Big Ten, and possibly All-America, matchup between Gophers center John Michael Schmitz and Wisconsin nose tackle Keeanu Benton. They expressed mutual respect toward each other this week.
“He’s a great player,” Schmitz said. “He’s definitely one of the best noses I’ve faced in my college career. Can be a little tricky to get around. Just have to find leverage with outside zone and inside zone and mixing it up. Keeping him on his toes. It’s about gaining that first step and that hand placement, getting inside him.”
Benton praised the Gophers’ offensive line unit.
“It’s hard to slip in blocks, it’s hard to get into the backfield, but (Schmitz) is a pretty solid dude,” Benton said. “But at the end of the day, I want the Axe back. So, I’m gonna have to run through his face a few times. But I give him respect where it’s due. He’s an incredible player.”
Benton didn’t take as much exception as Herbig to Minnesota playing “Jump Around.” But he mixed in some veiled shots.
“It goes both ways,” he said. “They play ‘Jump Around.’ Not everybody can be like Wisconsin, but that is the closest you are going to get, I guess. I guess it was payback from us rowing on their ‘M’ when we won. It’s going to keep going back and forth as long as the rivalry lasts.”
One key to last year’s victory for Minnesota was its defense shutting down freshman sensation Braelon Allen. The Badgers running back averaged 6.8 yards per game across 2021, including 10.4 in the Nebraska win the week before coming to Minneapolis. The U held him to 2.8 yards per carry. He finished that game with 17 carries for 47 yards and no touchdowns.
“They obviously did a really good job and we didn’t,” Badgers head coach Paul Chryst said Wednesday. “Couple things right away: They had dang good players and they understood their scheme. It’s a good scheme. I don’t think we did anything to help Braelon around it. We didn’t do anything to really make it uncomfortable. …
“There is a reason they’ve got the Axe, and we’ve got to do anything we can to get it back.”