clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Big Ten Countdown: 48 - The Origin Of Paul Bunyan's Axe And Nebraska's Rushing Touchdowns Would Set A Record

1948 saw the origin of Paul Bunyan's Axe, a rivalry trophy that goes to the winner of the annual Wisconsin-Minnesota game. The game is the longest running rivalry of any in major college football, having been played 118 times since 1890. The Gophers lead the series, 57-53-8, but haven't won the axe since 2003.

Before they played for the axe, they played for a slab of bacon, which wasn't really a slab of bacon at all, but a piece of wood. Odd sense of humor these Northerners have, but then again, the winters are really long, and in some places really really really cold, and the mind tends to wander unless it's sufficiently sedated with alcohol so one could understand how a slab of wood might be mistaken for a slab of bacon.

Apparently the Slab Of Bacon was lost in 1943 and the rivalry needed a new trophy so they invented Paul Bunyan's Axe. It's one of the nicer Big Ten rivalry trophies especially when compared to an Old Oaken Bucket, an Old Brass Spittoon, an Old Brown Jug, and a bronzed pig named Floyd. (You still feeling good about the Big Ten - taken out of context, the place can seem really weird.)

Turns out the Slab Of Bacon wasn't really lost, but kept by Wisconsin and "rediscovered" in storage in 1994 with all of the scores up to 1970 written on it. Sneaky people those Wisconsinites - keep that in mind when you're heading to Madison next season. Maybe carry some slabs of bacon with you to barter for tickets and beer and see how far it gets you. (I'm guessing it'll get you further than you think - who doesn't like bacon?)

48 - The current single-season rushing touchdown record for a team, set by Ohio State in 1974.

Sounds impressive, right?

It is until you realize that Nebraska would have shattered that record twice.

A little while after Nebraska formally joined the Big Ten, I took it upon myself to look into Big Ten individual and teamrecords and compare them to Nebraska's records just to see how the Huskers would compare.  Obviously, the Huskers weren't playing against Big Ten teams, but the exercise was meant to spur some discussion as well as have a little fun. 

Throughout the records, Nebraska stands out in one area and you shouldn't have to think too hard about it to guess which area it is - rushing. 

Nebraska's 66 rushing touchdowns in 1983 and 1997 would have set a single-season record with Ohio State's 48 in a distant third.