The Badgers skidded last week and found their pants around their ankles. The bully? Michigan. Wisconsin fell from the ranks of the undefeated and now needed assistance to be Rose Bowl bound. Everyone knew what had to happen: Ohio State had to defeat Michigan and the Badgers had to take care of business at home against Penn State.
Legendary coach Joe Paterno paced the sidelines with game face on and pants hiked up. The crowd was purely electric and anxious in waiting for news of the final score from Columbus, Ohio. When announced that the Buckeyes toppled the Wolverines, Camp Randall shook with volume now knowing that the Badgers controlled their fate.
Shortly after the anticipated announcement, lightning struck as punt returner Nick Davis returned a kick 81 yards for a score. Special teams and defense carried this team. Hard work and endless determination outlasted and wore down opponents. Penn State made it all easier with a few turnovers.
Even though the Badger offense is as slow as a nursing home’s potato sack race, Wisconsin was able to take advantage of mistakes made by the Lions. Quarterback Mike Samuel led the forces with a touchdown pass and run. A hobbling Ron Dayne was hardly noticed with a defense that made the Lions purr.
The controlling performance led to a 24-3 victory and a plane ride to Pasadena. Fans chanting “ROSE BOWL!” in unison was followed by the singing of the alma mater with arms interlocked around shoulders and a slow sway back and forth. Camp Randall’s fifth quarter celebration lasted perhaps six or seven quarters. Fireworks blasted in the night sky. Roses were thrown onto the field. Nearly 80,000 fans were getting their mindset for a trip west.
The opponent in the Rose Bowl would be #4 UCLA and many thought that the Bruins would be too much for the Badgers to handle. In fact, one announcer claimed that this Wisconsin team was the worst team to ever play in a Rose Bowl. Yet, an interception returned for a score and an MVP performance by Ron Dayne gave Wisconsin an unexpected 38-31 victory and one of the most memorable seasons in UW football history. In addition, coach Barry Alvarez had notched his second Rose Bowl title. After the game, Alvarez was asked what he thought of the comment made about the Badgers being the worst team to ever play in Pasadena. He replied by cleverly saying, “I guess now we are the second worst.”