I never knew how much I liked purple – not that there was a lot of it in the stands on this day. I figured the low attendance was a result of the cold rain that dampened Dyche Stadium. But, I soon learned that Northwestern has had an unfortunate athletic history. 1949 marked their last Rose Bowl experience – or any bowl expereince for that matter. So, even though Wisconsin lost to Michigan State the week before, I felt confident that the Badgers would win with ease.
However, at halftime, the Wildcats surged ahead 14-10. I did want the Badgers to emerge victorious, but something inside of me was secretly enjoying Northwestern’s mild success that first half. Perhaps it was the quaintness of the stadium, the catchy fight song “Go U Northwestern,” or the fact that Northwestern was less than an hour from where I lived. Unlike the packed Camp Randall, I was able to bolt around the stadium from empty section to empty section taking random photos of the surroundings. Where many might see the evidence of a lackluster football program, I saw the charm in this Big Ten conference charter member, and I could sense that Dyche Stadium was thick with history and tradition.
However, not much history would be made on this day. Wildcat fans had little to cheer about in the second half as Wisconsin cruised to a 46-14 victory. I was relieved about the outcome, yet I found myself rooting for NU the rest of the season and beyond (except for their clashes with the Badgers). I made a bold prediction at the end of the 1994 season. I stated that Northwestern coach Gary Barnett would have the Wildcats in a bowl sooner than most would expect. I never thought that my prediction would be an underestimate as the following year, they would have a miracle season becoming the 1995 Big Ten Champs and Rose Bowl representatives. That’s when Northwestern became such a strong part of my football world. Their run for the roses would surpass Wisconsin’s 1993 success in shock value. Now, I had two teams worthy of passionate support.