MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- With last weekend's loss at Michigan removing any chance of Minnesota going to a third straight bowl game, the Gophers are turning to a bronzed pig and a legendary lumberjack for motivation.
"First we've got to keep the pig, then we've got to go out and get the axe," receiver Ron Johnson said this week, referring to Minnesota's final two games against border rivals Iowa and Wisconsin.
The pig would be Floyd of Rosedale, a bronzed hog awarded to the winner of Minnesota-Iowa football games since 1935. The Gophers have kept Floyd in Minneapolis since 1998. It's a different story with Paul Bunyan's Axe, awarded to the winner of Minnesota-Wisconsin games since 1890. The Badgers have kept the trophy in Madison since 1995.
The Gophers (3-6) play at Iowa (5-4) this Saturday, then host Wisconsin (5-5) to finish the season Nov. 24.
Running back Tellis Redmond said coach Glen Mason doesn't want to see Floyd of Rosedale leaving the Twin Cities anytime soon.
"I think he'll be upset if we lose the pig because Floyd has been around here for awhile," Redmon said. "He'll miss him, and the team will too."
Mason downplayed the significance of winning the rivalry trophies, along with questions about whether the Gophers will try and use their final two games to prepare for next year.
"How do you start preparing for next year until you finish this year?" he said. "No, we're finishing off this year. That's where people lose it. Where all of a sudden you think, 'Oh, well, let's see -- they can't go to a bowl game, they can't do this ... well, they ought to start preparing for next year."'
Mason said he refuses to think that way.
"How do I keep making this team better?" he said. "That's why I've never believed in all of a sudden just playing young guys because there's nothing to play for. I just don't do that. I don't think that's fair to the guys on the team and I'll never do that."
Redmon admitted some of the players are struggling to get fired up for the final two games.
"It's real difficult. Because we don't have a chance to go to a bowl game and this would have been our third year going to a bowl," he said. "And it's also real hard on the guys because the seniors want to go out with a bang by going to a bowl, so it's really difficult on them."
Junior cornerback Mike Lehan said his motivation to win won't lie in carrying around a pig or an oversized axe.
"I'd love to win these last two games for the senior class," he said. "Jack (Brewer), Ron (Johnson) and Greg (White) -- they've been tremendous leaders on the team and done great things this season, keeping us motivated. There's not a better way to send them out than with a couple of wins to end the season."
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