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Updated: November 24th, 2013 8:42pm
Zulgad: Gophers took small step, which cannot be said of the NFC North

Zulgad: Gophers took small step, which cannot be said of the NFC North

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

A few thoughts from the Gophers' loss to Wisconsin on Saturday and the Vikings' tie with the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

The initial reaction to the Gophers surrounding the goal post in the east end zone of TCF Bank Stadium, and thus not allowing happy Badgers players to "chop down" the post after they retained Paul Bunyan's Axe, was a big eye roll.

The Gophers had lost 20-7, meaning the Badgers held onto the axe for a 10th consecutive season. Logic said that if Minnesota wanted to stop Wisconsin from celebrating on its home field, then it should have won the game.

That was the first thought that came to mind.

While that might be a fair analysis of the situation, there also is another angle to this that must be considered. For once, the Minnesota Gophers football program stood up for itself.

Sure the manner in which it was done involved a dose of bravado and might have come off as juvenile, but that isn't the worst thing. This is sports after all.

The Gophers lost to the Badgers on a frigid day in Minneapolis, but they did not embarrass themselves and there was no point that it seemed like a physical Wisconsin team was intimidating its opponent.

The Badgers entered the game averaging 307.9 yards on the ground but finished with 197 yards. Ohio State and Minnesota are the only teams to hold Wisconsin under 200 yards rushing this season.

The fact the Gophers were willing to keep the Badgers from celebrating in one of the end zones was an extension of the fact that Jerry Kill's team wasn't going to be pushed around.

The Gophers, who had their four-game winning streak ended, need to show a general toughness. For far too long, this program has been pitied because of its ability to lose games in an unforgettable manner and its ability to get pushed around by much tougher teams in the Big Ten.

Maybe the Gophers decided they have had enough and that turning the other cheek in sports too often means that eventually people just start laughing at you and don't have to worry about taking you seriously.

The fact the Gophers found nothing funny about the Badgers' actions - and attempted to do something about it -- seems like a step in the right direction.

How bad is it?

The most appropriate thing that happened in the NFL on Sunday might have been the 26-26 tie between the Vikings and Packers.

Neither of these teams deserved to win and with Chicago losing at St. Louis and Detroit losing to Tampa Bay, it meant that no team in the NFC North won its game.

One of the primary topics of the Judd & Dubay show this season has been the lack of quality games in the NFL and it's looking more and more like the poster child for the substandard play might be the Vikings' division.

There are a lot of below average to bad teams but look around the majority of the divisions and you can find at least one club with a quality record. New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South are 9-2 and 8-3, respectively. The NFC West has Seattle (10-1), Arizona (7-4) and San Francisco (6-4).

The AFC isn't good but no division leader has a winning percentage below .636.

The Lions and Bears are atop the NFC North at 6-5, a .545 winning percentage. The NFC East also is led by two 6-5 teams in Dallas and Philadelphia. Yuck and yuck on both counts.

The Packers have the excuse of being without the fantastic Aaron Rodgers and the Bears are missing their starting quarterback in Jay Cutler. The fact the Lions, who are led by healthy starter Matthew Stafford, can't run away and hide with this division is just more evidence that they are ... well, the Lions.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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