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November 12, 2011MINNEAPOLIS - If there was a script writer out there trying to plot out one of the more entertaining Big Ten conference title races he or she wouldn't have to look any further than the 2011 season.
Specific to Wisconsin, a team that needed plenty of help to wind up back in the drivers seat following back-to-back losses, Saturday's results couldn't have gone any better.
Ohio State lost to Purdue in overtime, but only after a go-ahead extra point attempt with less than a minute to play was blocked. The Boilermakers, led by Robert Marve, knocked off the Buckeyes 26-23 in overtime.
Additionally, in one of the more solemn games to ever be played in Happy Valley, Penn State fell short to Nebraska. With both losses, combined with a Wisconsin win, the Badgers now control their own destiny in the race for a spot in the inaugural Big Ten title game.
Should Wisconsin win its final two games at Illinois and home against Penn State, it will play in Indianapolis December 3rd.
"It's pretty nice," senior right guard Kevin Zeitler said following the win. "I'm not going to lie. I'm not surprised because anything can happen in the Big Ten. It's one of those leagues where a good team can be surprised.
Though Ohio State and Penn State each lost prior to the start of Saturday's Badger game, head coach Bret Bielema didn't know about it until midway through the tilt with Minnesota. That's when he was informed that his team had destiny back in its favor.
He then made mention of it to his players after the 42-13 win.
"There were a lot of smiles," Bielema said. "But they knew where I was going right after it. There's a little scripture that says those that have been exalted will be humbled and those that will be humbled will be exalted.
"So we're in the construction phase of getting back to where we want to be and we'll continue to work."
Several players admitted how they noticed the scores on the scoreboard inside TCF Bank Stadium throughout the second half. They noticed that both the teams they needed to lose lost and that with a win they would secure their 2011 fate with their own play the rest of the way.
Though the possibility of a de facto 'Leaders' division title game against Penn State looms, every Wisconsin player available for post game interviews was entirely focused on Illinois next week.
"That's all we really can do right now," junior linebacker Mike Taylor said.
-With the win Wisconsin collected it's eight straight win in its series against Minnesota. It was also UW's fourth consecutive road win in the rivalry, the longest such stretch in series history.
-UW's defense held Minnesota to 156 yards of total offense, the lowest total by a UW opponent this season.
-UW, meanwhile, tallied 461 yards of total offense. That's the eighth time the Badgers have surpassed the 400-yard mark.
-Wisconsin has scored a touchdown off each of its last 11 turnovers. Every single turnover the Badger defense has scored this season in Big Ten play has resulted in points for UW.
-UW went a perfect 6-for-6 in the red zone Saturday. They have now improved their nation-leading red-zone touchdown percentage to 87 percent.
-With four passing touchdowns against the Gophers, senior quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown 25 touchdown passes this season, breaking the UW single-season record. He also became just the 13th quarterback in FBS history - - and fifth from a BCS conference - - to pass for at least 100 TD's in a career. He's currently on pace to become the fourth quarterback in Big Ten history to throw at least 30 touchdowns in a single season.
-Wilson has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 34 straight games, two shy of the NCAA record of 36 held by Texas Tech's Graham Harrell.
-Junior running back Montee Ball has scored at least two touchdowns in every game this season. With three touchdowns against the Gophers he has 27 scores on the season, which is a Wisconsin and Big Ten single-season record.
-Ball also has 23 rushing touchdowns this season, a school record.
-Senior wide receiver Nick Toon tied a career high with a pair of touchdown receptions, his third multiple-touchdown game of the season. Toon leads UW receivers with eight scores on the season and has 16 in his career. He is tied for fourth on UW's single-season TD receptions list and tied for fifth on the career list.