Camp Randall was an exciting place to be on this late Saturday afternoon, but the 79,000 who smashed into the stadium had little notion that this feeling would befall all Wisconsin fans that witnessed this contest. Hearts were aflutter in the Badger state knowing the magnitude of the Michigan game. Wisconsin needed to notch wins over the Wolverines and then the Gophers in two weeks to secure a bowl bid. In addition, this was Michigan – the tyrant of the Big Ten that terrorized all teams in their path.
The game began innocently enough with Badger quarterback Brooks Bollinger running in the opening score giving Wisconsin a 7-0 lead and a suddenly confident and boisterous crowd. The Wolverines responded rather rapidly with two touchdowns, one being on a blocked kick returned to the end zone. The sudden turn summed up an entire season of disappointments for Wisconsin as the exuberant crowd morphed into an exasperated one. The Wolverines tacked on a field goal to raise the lead to ten early in the third quarter. Wisconsin found the ignition to their offense again in the third quarter and scored on an Anthony Davis run and a field goal resulting from a Michigan turnover. The fourth quarter began tied at seventeen with an anxious crowd looking on with glazed glances wondering what could possibly occur in the final fifteen minutes.
In the final quarter, both defenses stymied any offensive flow and nothing aside from nervous tension took place until the final minute. The Badgers stopped a Michigan drive near midfield with 47 seconds left and the Wolverines were prepared to punt. Everyone’s expectations revolved around overtime. Wisconsin fans were imagining a fitting finish for the seniors and a revitalized set of bowl hopes. The Badgers held all the momentum as the clock neared zero. The Michigan punt sailed up and all Badger players cleared the area knowing that a return is unnecessary and would only increase turnover possibilities. Apparently, freshman Brett Bell was unaware of this tactic. He played as though it was a punt return blocking Michigan’s Brandon Williams the entire way. Wisconsin fans watching this were instantly paralyzed watching the confused freshman toddle down the field all alone while the others stayed behind. Sure enough, the ball bounced right up and hit Bell causing the ball to be alive and Brandon Williams scooped it up putting Michigan in easy field goal range with ten seconds left.
The caterwauling that hailed from the stadium was deafening. The Wolverines effortlessly connected on the field goal and escaped with a 20-17 win. All hearts across the state of Wisconsin sunk, twisted, wrenched, and bled. The now doleful crowd filed silently out of the stadium and down Breese Terrace with few words and stunned faces. The Badgers had one more game on their schedule, but their season essentially ended on this night. Michigan knew they got away with one and showed minimal haughtiness. Badger fans will relive this moment over and over as Wisconsin had it in the bank, but withdrew all they had and lost it.