Nov. 27--Back in 2014, David Cobb was full of anticipation in the week leading up to the Gophers' monumental regular-season finale against Wisconsin. There was much on the line.
The senior tailback was hungry to beat the Badgers and hold Paul Bunyan's Axe for his first time. And he looked ahead to how a win over a rival would clinch the West Division and set up a matchup with Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
So, yes, Cobb knows exactly how the current No. 8-ranked Gophers feel right now; the same stakes are on the line for Saturday's 2:30 p.m. kickoff against No. 12 Wisconsin -- right down to the opponent in a potential conference championship game.
It's been six years since Cobb and his teammates fell short of their goals in a 34-24 loss at Camp Randall Stadium but time hasn't healed the wound. They'll lament the lost opportunity again this week on a group chat frequented by Cobb and former teammates including Damien Wilson, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Thieren Cochran, KJ Maye and Damarius Travis.
"Every year that we play Wisconsin, we say we should have beat them -- that stings, that stings, that stings," Cobb said. "That will never go away."
Cobb had other thoughts on his mind during that Axe Week, too. The Killeen, Texas, native had his eye on breaking the U's all-time single-season rushing record of 1,464 set by Laurence Maroney in 2005.
The Gophers' workhorse was 14 yards short after injuring his hamstring a week prior against Nebraska. "I wasn't sure if I was going to play or not," he said.
In his rehab, Cobb often considered: "Where is Nick Rallis?"
"It was weird to say," Cobb said.
Rallis, a Gophers backup linebacker, had a hobby of doing physical therapy on teammates and made getting Cobb healthy his pet project.
"Nick would literally hook me up to his own (stimulation) machine," Cobb said. "He would wrap my leg up in plastic with Icy Hot or whatever and tell me to sleep in it. I owe that whole week to Nick because he took it as if his hamstring was torn. He took care of me."
While Cobb recovered, he said, the Gophers felt a level of confidence they didn't have in three previous losses to Wisconsin -- 42-13 in 2011, 38-13 in 2012 and 20-7 in 2013.
"For the past three years, it was always like maybe we can beat Wisconsin, maybe not," Cobb said. "I could remember going into that (2014) game how confident we were and we had a different swag about us and everybody was very confident."
Cobb said the then-18th-ranked Gophers felt like they had the athletes to match up with the 14th-ranked Badgers, and Cobb's 40-yard touchdown helped stake Minnesota to a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter.
"We just couldn't finish," Cobb said. "They came back and made some big plays."
The Gophers' passing game struggled: Mitch Leidner completed 28 percent of his passes for 95 yards and no touchdowns. Fifty-six yards of that came on a 53-yard catch by Maxx Williams, which led to a touchdown that cut the Badgers' lead to 27-24 midway through the fourth quarter.
The defense -- featuring Wilson, Boddy-Calhoun De'Vondre Campbell, Cedric Thompson, Cameron Botticelli and Eric Murray -- had a tough time with Badgers running back Melvin Gordon, who rushed 29 times for 151 yards and a touchdown. Badgers quarterback Joel Stave had two touchdowns and 215 passing yards, with 160 to Alex Erickson.
The Badgers got the title shot and got smoked, 59-0, by Ezekiel Elliott and the eventual national champion Buckeyes.
With the Rose Bowl a College Football Playoff semifinal that year, Wisconsin went to the Outback Bowl and Minnesota headed to the Citrus. That's where Cobb padded his program rushing record to 1,626 yards in a 33-17 loss to Missouri.
Now, Cobb is sharing the current Gophers' excitement. He loves this team's "completely different offense" with "big-time receivers" and a "three-headed monster at running back."
Cobb now lives in Austin, Texas, where he's rehabbing a hamstring injury and keeping alive hopes of playing professionally in the XFL. He watched in person as Minnesota blew out Nebraska, 34-7, at TCF Bank Stadium in mid-October. He watched on TV as the Gophers beat then-No. 4 Penn State, 31-26, and he liked their fight on the road in the 23-19 loss to Iowa.
He can't wait for Saturday.
"If these guys could pull this win off," Cobb said, "it will soften our loss a little more."
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