Last year, the Bearcats pulled the rug out from underneath the Badgers leaving them dizzy and confused on the Cincinnati astroturf. Wisconsin fell victim to the largest upset of the year and even though they recovered to win their second consecutive Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship, the aftertaste of the defeat lingered.
Revenge consumed the minds of the 2000 Badgers as they hosted the party this year in Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. However, what was expected to be a certain victory for the Badgers in the preseason has now been infested with doubt. Wisconsin still was digging through their roster replacing starters due to the suspensions issued as a result of players receiving free gifts. Wisconsin managed to squeeze through their first two opponents and they had two more to battle before returning to full strength.
Cincinnati had collected two wins in their wallet and was just coming off a gargantuan upset of Syracuse. The stage was set for the sequel of last year’s shocking outcome. I managed to get down near the field and take an unclose photo of Cincy coach Rick Minter. Last year, when I rushed the field with the Bearcat fans, my camera was clicking all around Minter as he was being interviewed. I got the sense that he was somewhat annoyed by this Badger fan wearing an obnoxious red cowboy hat and clouding his big moment. When I took his picture this year, he gave me a look as though he thought I was familiar. The situation made me feel as though one photograph should do.
Game time was now approaching and although the weather was perfect, the air was thick with anxiety as those familiar black helmets of Cincinnati invaded the field. Wisconsin got things started with an impressive rushing touchdown by quarterback Brooks Bollinger. But, the offense began to chug and sputter. Cincinnati took a 13-10 lead at half and stretched it to 19-15 late in the fourth quarter.
Just like last year, Wisconsin was forced to operate the two-minute offense. Unlike last year, however, Bollinger was in the pilot seat. He sliced up the field with short passes and runs including a one yarder that capped the drive for the leading touchdown bringing the score to 22-19 with less than thirty seconds left. However, Cincinnati had a butcher-like quarterback too and he chopped his way down the field setting up a lengthy field goal with four seconds remaining. Badger fans gawked as the kick sailed into the air and through the pipes tying the game and sending it to overtime.
During the extra session, the Badger defense shielded the endzone valiantly holding the Bearcats to only three points. Wisconsin’s possession starred tailback Eddie Faulkner who took the place of Michael Bennett as caused by the suspensions. Faulkner saved the day when on a run up the middle, he found daylight, and ended the game with a sixteen yard scamper into the paint. Camp Randall blasted with energy as the players mobbed Faulkner in the corner of the endzone. The Badgers had faced major adversity with these suspensions and looked like they might escape undefeated through the first four contests. The Big Ten opener with Northwestern was the last barrier…