DeKalb, Illinois isn’t exactly a cauldron of college football thrills, but Northern Illinois head coach Joe Novak has been generating a feisty team in his Huskies. Both Wisconsin and Northern Illinois have been rather volatile in their beginnings. The Badgers stumbled, but succeeded against Fresno State and returned with a pounding of West Virginia. The Huskies stunned Wake Forest at home and then got buried by South Florida. Which teams would appear on this overcast day in Madison?
By halftime, it was evident that the Northern Illinois fans making the trip up I-90 to Madison might be going home with a second straight win over a BCS team this season. From the upper deck looking down, it was challenging to imagine a 22-point underdog giving Badger fans such heartache. Wisconsin clung to a tenuous 10-6 advantage going into the second half. They stretched that lead to 17-9 offering some relief to befuddled Badger fans trying to make sense of this team.
The Huskies wanted to be the stars in this thriller and took center stage right from the first play of the fourth quarter scoring a touchdown and slicing Wisconsin’s lead to two with a missed conversion. At 17-15, Wisconsin looked far too charitable against the Huskies. NIU found more holes than a cheese grater in the Badger defensive line. Unfortunately, they were not as small and Wisconsin’s cheese got grated.
Failing to move the ball, Wisconsin continued to return it to Northern Illinois who found the paint again with their backup tailback Michael Turner scoring his second of the day and transforming Camp Randall into a church – both in noise level and amount of prayer.
Nerves shook and hearts dropped when Wisconsin had to give up the ball with just under three minutes remaining. However, an impetuous defense kept the Huskies from progressing and assisted by a few flags, the Wisconsin offense started what would be their final complete drive at the fifty-yard line. Quarterback Brooks Bollinger dashed to a phone booth and changed into his superhero costume before he took the field. Tossing a few key completions and forcing a few more penalties surged the Badgers to the two-yard line where Bollinger snuck it in himself. With that dive, Wisconsin avoided a degrading loss, but still became the most dubious 4-0 team in the country. With Arizona swooping in next week, a multi-point inspection is in order because heroics can only go so far.