Wisconsin senior duo hopes to leave legacy in last 'Axe' game
NOV 20, 2013 6:44p ET
"It's an M for Minnesota boys," Kelly said. "We do it all the time. Locker room, whenever, just hanging out. It's something that we always keep in the front of our mind in the offseason, preparing for this game."
That shake and what it represents will be especially on their minds this week, as BCS No. 19 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) travels to face No. 25 Minnesota (8-2, 4-2) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in TCF Bank Stadium. Allen and Kelly are both seniors and Minnesota natives. This game represents their final opportunity to leave a legacy in the annual battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe in what is shaping up to be without question the most significant rivalry game in years.
"Knowing whether I win this game, it's going to mean for the rest of my life, I finished with the axe or I didn’t finish with the Axe," Kelly said. "There's added pressure that way. I think Minnesota is a better team. I think they're the best team we've ever faced when we've played Minnesota."
The relationship between Kelly, a sixth-year senior, and Allen, who is two years younger, dates back to high school, when the two both attended a football camp at Minnesota. At the time, Kelly was committed to play defensive end for the Gophers, while Allen was just beginning his ascent to being one of the top defensive tackles in the state.
Kelly eventually de-committed while Minnesota was in the process of a 1-11 season in 2007. Wisconsin, which was the first school to offer him a scholarship, had gone 12-1 the previous season and went 9-4 in 2007 to play in the Outback Bowl. And it was Kelly who eventually hosted Allen on his recruiting visit to Wisconsin.
"I always had a little spot in my heart for Wisconsin but kind of just committed (to Minnesota) out of pressure because I knew a lot of guys that were committed there," Kelly said. "Had a lot of friends that were on the team at that time and I was like, 'Hey, I've got to do it because all my boys are there.' … I ended up here, which is a much better decision."
Now, Kelly and Allen help form one of the best front sevens in all of college football. The Badgers rank No. 5 nationally in scoring defense (14.0 points per game) and No. 6 in total defense (287.8 yards per game). Wisconsin also is seventh in run defense, allowing just 98.8 yards on the ground.
Kelly, a native of Eden Prairie, Minn., has since moved from defensive end to outside linebacker in Wisconsin's new 3-4 scheme and has 27 tackles with 2 1/2 sacks. Allen, from Minnetonka, Minn., has 17 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks at nose guard.
Both players are expecting upwards of 30 family and friends to attend Saturday's game, and they have been snatching up tickets from teammates. Allen said the stadium was only about 20 minutes from his house.
"It's huge for me," Allen said. "I'm trying to scoop up as many tickets as I can. Get all my friends and family out to the game. It's nice to know that I kind of have a little cheering section of my own even though I guess we're at an away stadium."
In addition to their handshake, Kelly and Allen have started another tradition in recent years as it pertains to the annual game. Wisconsin has retained possession of the Axe every year during their time as Badgers, and the two have made a point to seek out the Axe as a duo.
"We kind of carried it together the last couple years, which is kind of cool," Allen said. "Two Minnesota guys that came to Wisconsin, both playing defense. Maybe we'll do that. We'll see who chops down the goal post."
If Wisconsin should win once again, will Kelly and Allen continue that tradition for one final go-around?
"You can guarantee it," Kelly said. "Yeah, you'll see Beau and I out there. You'll see it.
Andersen semifinalist: Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen was named one of 16 semifinalists for the Maxwell Football Club Collegiate Coach of the Year Award on Wednesday.
Andersen's team has won five consecutive games and this season ranks fifth in the country in scoring defense and 19th in scoring offense. Wisconsin is on pace to break the school record by averaging 505.8 yards of offense per game.
As a head coach, Andersen has won 25 of his last 29 games dating back to his days at Utah State.
Here is the full list of MFC Coach of the Year semifinalists:
• Nick Saban, Alabama
• Gus Malzahn, Auburn
• Art Briles, Baylor
• Steve Addazio, Boston College
• Dabo Swinney, Clemson
• David Cutcliffe, Duke
• Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State
• Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
• Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
• Gary Pinkel, Missouri
• Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
• Urban Meyer, Ohio State
• Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
• George O'Leary, Central Florida
• Ed Orgeron, USC
• Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter
+ SHOW COMMENTS +