Gophers, fans celebrate after winning Paul Bunyan’s Axe

Quarterback Tanner Morgan said his highlight was seeing how ecstatic people were capturing the Axe at home for the first time since 2003.

Gophers cornerback Coney Durr (16) and teammates hold up Paul Bunyan’s Axe after beating Wisconsin 23-13 at Huntington Bank Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Courtesy of Gopher Athletics via St. Paul Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- University of Minnesota players, coaches and even the radio crew had unique highlights in how they celebrated the Gophers winning Paul Bunyan’s Axe in a 23-13 win over Wisconsin at Huntington Bank Stadium on Saturday.

Head coach P.J. Fleck gave a fist pump to the crowd after Wisconsin turned the ball over on downs in the final minute. He kissed the turf and then was given a Gatorade bath by players.

Once fans stormed the field, kicker Matthew Trickett got in an imaginary boat with fellow students and acted like they were rowing it.

As the post game KFAN show was wrapping up, radio commentator and Minnesota’s all-time-leading running back Darrell Thompson was enjoying a cigar in the booth. He wasn’t the only one with a victory stogie, with puffs being taken by players in the home locker room, too.

Here’s some other anecdotes from the raucous scene:



In the celebration, the stadium’s public-address system played “Jump Around,” the song played before Wisconsin plays in fourth quarters at Camp Randall Stadium.

“I thought that was funny,” linebacker Jack Gibbens said.

Fifth-year quarterback Tanner Morgan, however, said, he didn’t hear that, “dang.”

Looks on faces

Morgan said his highlight was seeing how ecstatic people were capturing the Axe at home for the first time since 2003.

“It was players who I played with here when I was 17, 18, 19 years old, and how much it means to those guys,” Morgan said. “Everyone who gives to our program and how much it means to them and how appreciative we are for those people, too. And just to see it on our fans’ faces, it means a lot.”

In the sea of humanity, Gibbens said, “Every once in a while, kind of in the chaos, I would see one of my teammates and give them a big hug and go crazy for a little bit because it was bodies everywhere. It was kind of cool to see the guys. It was a blast. Something I will remember forever for sure.”

Minnesota Gophers offensive lineman Tyrell Lawrence (73) looks on in a crowd of fans after they rushed the field following their victory against the Wisconsin Badgers at Huntington Bank Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Harrison Barden / USA Today Sports


For the roomies

Morgan was at the postgame podium with two of his roommates, Trickett and Gibbens. They were asked if the Axe would go back to their place.

“One of these days we might be able to swing that,” Morgan said.

Gibbens saw the way to make that happen. “This guy (Morgan) has a little bit of pull in the organization,” Gibbens said. “Maybe we can get it a week or something.”

Pictures over words

Chris Autman-Bell caught the go-ahead touchdown pass in the third quarter, but getting the Axe meant more to the fifth-year receiver.

“I think I took like 300 pictures,” Autman-Bell said. “It’s just things like that — it’s why you do this, why you play football. Why you come here to Minnesota, do these things. I can’t even talk. I’m excited. I’m still, you know, just. I’m hyped right now.”

Fast moves

Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi tried to race down from the coaches’ booth to join the celebration. The elevator operator wanted to hold the elevator from moving immediately after the game.

“No, you don’t,” Rossi told KFAN post game show.

Once the elevator took the coaches down to the ground level, Rossi said he ran his fastest 40-yard dash to join the rest of the program on the field.


Dinner for 3

Fleck turns 41 on Monday, and his wife Heather plans to take him out to dinner to celebrate before he goes on the road recruiting next week.

“We are going to bring the Axe with,” Fleck joked. “That will be a nice birthday celebration.”

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