At the end of a college football Saturday, most fans catch the scrolling scores at the bottom of their television screen. There always is at least one score that results in a double take. This game provided that astonishing score. The Badgers rolled into East Lansing carrying a hefty 9-0 record and top five ranking. Michigan State has experienced nothing but extreme inconsistency and disappointment. Next week’s game at Iowa was supposed to be the struggle, but the Spartans gave Wisconsin much more than they could handle. The pride of the Badgers is their defense having held every team they played under twenty points. Wisconsin’s offense doesn’t exactly ignite fireworks, but they haven’t needed to light up the scoreboard with their suffocating defense leading the way.
However, the packed house at Spartan Stadium witnessed a Badger defense that suddenly flipped from frugal to generous. Despite the whirlwind season Michigan State has experienced, it was impressive to see such extreme enthusiasm spreading over the crowd. They created an intimidating atmosphere exuding confidence that their team would topple this top five foe. Wisconsin tailback Anthony Davis started the scoring with a long bolt to the endzone that silenced the Spartan faithful.
Everything appeared normal, until Michigan State began their scoring clinic. A rushing touchdown to tie the game was followed by a blocked punt recovered in the endzone to snatch the lead. Following a Badger score to knot the game at fourteen, Michigan State answered with a perfectly executed halfback pass for a touchdown. At half, the Spartans led 21-14 and was playing with the super powers that USC and Oklahoma possess.
The scene grew scary for red clad fans in the second half. The hopes for a Rose Bowl or Orange Bowl began to fizzle. The Spartans kept attacking and Wisconsin kept shaking their heads. Score after score and no answer from the Badgers. The Michigan State fight song played so often, Badger fans were humming the tune for weeks following.
During the fourth quarter when the game was no longer in question, Spartan fans next to us began chatting about a possible minor bowl bid. The thought felt somewhat nauseating knowing that our Rose Bowl loss was becoming their Motor City Bowl gain. But, knowing this made it seem like the game wasn’t a complete waste if the conference would earn another post season placement. If Michigan State could go on and beat struggling Penn State and Hawaii, then their season would end with a positive.
However, inconsistency remained attached to their jersey even after their remarkable victory. The Spartans dropped their last two games and stayed home for the bowl season. Wisconsin still had hopes for the Rose Bowl if they could overcome Iowa, but the sting of Michigan State caused an incurable hangover. Wisconsin lost to Iowa and then to Georgia in the Outback Bowl.
The 49-14 score that Michigan State shocked Wisconsin with certainly reverberated around the country. Certainly, the score caused a similar state of shock for both teams involved as neither of them could muster a win afterwards ending their respective seasons bitterly.