That near miss against Boise State three weeks earlier and the lessons it taught the Badgers about how to finish games would pay off in their Big Ten opener against the Hoosiers. Indiana was coming in with a new coach and a new attitude (and new helmets that I hated). In fact, they were one of four Big Ten teams sporting a new leader (Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota were the others). Cam Cameron was about to coach his first Big Ten match up and he had a challenge coming into a crazy Camp Randall Stadium.
Prior to entering the stadium, every fan received a red towel to wave (much like the Pittsburgh Steelers). My mother, of course, grabbed about 30 of them and used them as stocking stuffers at Christmas. Anyway, there was excitement about the three game winning streak and Ron Dayne, who found his rhythm. Ron Dayne was effective today running for over 200 yards, but it was Wisconsin as a team that snatched this victory.
With under a minute to go, an extremely motivated Indiana team hit a field goal that put them up 26-24. The Hoosier sideline was ecstatic. Wisconsin fans were shocked. But, this echoed the Boise State game. Could the Badgers whip up another miracle finish? Once again, quarterback Mike Samuel led the team down the field. On fourth and long with time evaporating, Samuel threw a difficult pass that Tony Simmons leaped to haul in.
Yet, that only released a miniscule amount of pressure. Kicker Matt Davenport, who gave himself the name “money,” had an opportunity to make the name stick. Davenport set up for a 43 yarder and the wild crowd that witnessed Simmons’s catch was hushed in preparation for this kick. The snap went back, the kick up, and it was “money!” Red towels swirled around the stadium like an ocean of waves and time expired securing a 27-26 Badger victory. Davenport was buried under a heap of Badgers and the celebration was on.
Wisconsin’s game finishing skills were impressive, but the fact that they needed every second and every down to beat a team they were supposed to destroy caused a few ripples of concern. After a particularly enjoyable fifth quarter (traditional post-game celebration in Camp Randall involving partying with the band), I remember leaving the stadium and heading toward downtown Madison to continue the absorption of this fantastic win. I saw one of my friends and he yelled to me, “We have to be the worst 4-1 team in the country!” It was true and next week, Wisconsin was heading to Northwestern – the kings of last second comebacks…