Game 21: Eastern Michigan @ Wisconsin

No preseason rank. Expectations running medium to low. Wisconsin football tasted the pavement last year by not returning to a bowl and the bitterness carried over into the 1996 season. Eastern Michigan came in to Madison sporting a new look and a heightened spirit. Something told me that this would not be the same 56-0 shutout that the Badgers dropped on the Eagles two years ago. Yet still, this was Big Ten football against Middle American Conference football. No matter how Wisconsin would bounce back from last year, it certainly couldn’t be with a loss to EMU.

The Badgers had many new faces and names this year. The majority of the team from the 1993 Rose Bowl season had graduated. One of the new players was a big, stocky running back, whom I didn’t think very highly of at the time. I remember him barreling into the endzone a couple times and sending the crowd into a frenzy. But, I just rolled my eyes thinking, “Who is this guy pretending to be some great Wisconsin running back…some Brent Moss or Terell Fletcher wannabe?” Little did I know that I was watching a future Heisman Trophy winner – Ron Dayne.

Last season, watching Ohio State’s Eddie George take over the field was awe inspiring because fans knew that he was in the running for this greatly coveted award. But, Dayne was simply a freshman during the Eastern Michigan game and no one really knew of him. Not to mention, scoring against EMU wasn’t exactly phenomenal. Any Big Ten third stringer could manage that feat. Moreover, the final score was far from impressive…24-3. Wisconsin fans left wondering what the future had in store. Was the magic over for the Badgers? Would anyone step up and lead the team? Was there any hope for another Rose Bowl? It wouldn’t be long before Ron Dayne would show that he had the answers to these questions…


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