Oh, what could've been. The 2022 regular season ends on a sour note for Wisconsin after a brutal 23-16 loss at home against Minnesota to give Paul Bunyan's Axe back to the Golden Gophers for the second consecutive season and third time in the last five years.
As much as Wisconsin's offense struggled and as much as the defense struggled at times, it remained a close game throughout. Wisconsin eventually took a 16-13 lead over Minnesota heading into the fourth quarter. But Minnesota was able to get into field goal range and with 7:58 to go, tied the game at 16 on a 27 yard field goal. The Badgers, needing to go on a long touchdown drive, followed with a three and out, giving the ball back to Minnesota, who promptly took it down the field and into the endzone on a 45 yard touchdown pass to Le'Meke Brockington. That gave Minnesota a 23-16 lead with 3:40 to go.
With the Badgers needing an answer and running out of time, Graham Mertz threw an interception, and Minnesota was left with a chance to make it a two possession game. But their 48 yard field goal attempt was no good, and Wisconsin got the ball back with 1:48 left and no timeouts. It was a classic opportunity to drive down the field and tie the game.
Unfortunately, Graham Mertz was injured on the second play of the drive and backup QB Chase Wolf had to enter the game. On 3rd and 8, he slid down a yard short of the first down instead of diving head first, leading to a hastened 4th and 1 that chewed a lot of clock but ultimately ended with a 14 yard run by Isaac Guerendo, who also got injured at the end of his run. Wisconsin was at the 36 yard line and Wolf made a nice pass to Chimere Dike to get down to the 20 yard line. The next play, pass interference was called in the endzone on Minnesota, giving Wisconsin 1st and Goal on the 5, and a great opportunity to tie the game.
Then a holding call pushed them to the 15, then a false start. Then another false start. Then another false start. Next thing you know, Wisconsin is back at the 30 yard line on 1st and goal, trying to get into the endzone. Then on 4th and Goal from the 25 with 0:05 remaining, Wolf's pass to the endzone fell incomplete and Minnesota held on to win and keep Paul Bunyan's Axe.
Graham Mertz was 16/27 for 170 yards and one interception. Chez Mellusi carried the ball 19 times for 75 yards as Braelon Allen was out with an injury. Gophers QB Athan Kaliakmanis completed 19 of 29 passes for 319 yards and 2 TDs.
It's a tough end to a tough season for the Badgers, who finish with a 6-6 record. Next up is a bowl game. The bowl schedule will be announced after the conference championship games next weekend.