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Erickson's big day helps Badgers
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MADISON (AP) - It didn't take Alex Erickson very long Saturday to realize he - or someone in the University of Wisconsin wide receiver corps - was going to have to make an impact against a Minnesota defense loading up to stop the run.

"With their safeties that low, it was just a matter of time until we had to land a shot and take the top off," the Badgers junior said. "We were able to do that."

With UW down 17-3 midway through the second quarter, Erickson was on the receiving end of the play that finally softened the Gophers defense. He got behind a defender on third-and-8 from his own 22, hauled in a Joel Stave pass just past midfield and took it to the Minnesota 8 before Cedric Thompson and Jalen Myrick forced him out of bounds.

It was the longest completion of Stave's career and the longest catch of Erickson's career, topping a 47-yarder he caught vs. Maryland. It was the longest gain through the air for the Badgers since 2010, when Jon Budmayr and Jared Abbrederis connected on a 74-yarder against Indiana.

"We needed a play; we weren't rolling very well on offense," Erickson said. "It's a play we've had in for a few of weeks now, but haven't had it called.I was able to work him at the line, get on top of him and stick him at the top and then Joel put it right where it needed to be and I was able to come down with it."

UW tailback Melvin Gordon capped the drive on a 4-yard scoring pass from Stave on a toss that looked to be intended for Erickson in the back of the end zone.

"I'm not so sure it wasn't supposed to go to Alex," UW coach Gary Andersen said. "(Gordon) came up and got it, which is all that matters at the end of the day."

The 70-yarder was the first of several big plays for Erickson, who finished with a career-high 160 yards on five catches.

The former Darlington athlete made catches of 35 and 14 yards on a drive that started with 18 seconds left in the second quarter. That put UW in field goal position for Rafael Gaglianone, who drilled a 38-yarder as time expired to cut Minnesota's lead to 17-13.

"I have a lot of trust in all the guys out there, but Alex has done a tremendous job in practice and weeks previous," Stave said of Erickson, who also drew a pair of pass interference flags from Minnesota with one leading to a touchdown.

"It was just a good opportunity for him tonight. We were getting so much man coverage. He's such a good player, he's such a good route runner. When he gets man coverage, he knows where to be, how to stick and how to get open. He did a great job giving me an opportunity to get the ball to him."