Gophers DB Justin Walley named Big Ten Freshman of the Week

Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive back Justin Walley (0) breaks up a pass to Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Kendric Pryor (3) in the second quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn.  ((Photo by Matt Blewett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images))

Gophers’ defensive back Justin Walley has been named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week after a big game in Minnesota’s 23-13 win over Wisconsin on Saturday to take back Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

Walley had an interception on Graham Mertz on the first possession of the third quarter. Two plays later, Ky Thomas scored from two yards out as the Gophers took a 13-10 lead over the Badgers. Walley is the first Minnesota defensive player to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Week.

Walley also had a career-high five tackles in the game as the Gophers beat the Badgers for the second time in four years, and the first time at home since 2003.

Walley is the second Gophers’ player to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Week this season. Mar’Keise Irving earned the honor after rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns in a win at Northwestern.

For the season, Walley has 28 tackles, one interception, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and one that he returned for a touchdown. He also has six pass break-ups.


The Gophers have had two players enter the NCAA transfer portal since Saturday’s win over Wisconsin. Jacob Clark, who played one game in 2019 at quarterback and completed one pass, is leaving the Minnesota program. The news comes with little surprise as Tanner Morgan is reportedly returning for the 2022 season, and is 26-12 in three-plus seasons as the starting quarterback.

Linebacker James Gordon also entered the transfer portal. Gordon played in all 12 games this season and, and in 23 career games. He finished with 22 tackles, one tackle for a loss and an interception.

Before the Wisconsin game, defensive linemen MJ Anderson and Rashad Cheney also left the program.

The Gophers finished the regular season 8-4 and will learn their bowl destination on Sunday.


Gophers’ offensive lineman Daniel Fa’alele has accepted an invite to play in the Senior Bowl, an event in February that showcases the top seniors in the country in front of NFL scouts.

The game will be broadcast on NFL Network. Fa’alele, a 6-9, 380-pound offensive lineman from Australia, started 30 of his 33 career games at Minnesota and was named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention two straight seasons, in 2019 and 2019. Fa’alele did not play in the 2020 season after opting out due to COVID-19 concerns.

Fa’alele is the 44th Minnesota player to be invited to the Senior Bowl, and it marks the third straight season the Gophers have had a player there. Recent invites include Benjamin St.-Juste, now with the Washington Football Team, Carter Coughlin two years ago, who is now with the New York Giants and Kamal Martin, who did not play in the game but was drafted by the Green Bay Packers.

The Gophers have not had an offensive lineman selected in the NFL Draft since Greg Eslinger and Mark Setterstrom, both in 2006.