Camp Randall Stadium has been the epicenter of my tour schedule for seventy-four games. However, with all my visits, this past Saturday would be my first time taking in the action from the upper deck.
The experience would be fused to my memory immediately from the playing of the national anthem. Up until this point, our group had been enjoying an easy-going and pleasant afternoon. We hopped one of the crammed shuttles down University Avenue toward the stadium and walked alongside the marching band as they high-stepped toward the entrance. Strolling into the upper deck stole our breath as we admired views over the south end of the stadium and absorbed the power of this grand venue. Yet, it was during the national anthem when we experienced the most shaking moment. It had been announced that a flyover by two F/A-18 Hornets was scheduled to take place in honor of our veterans. Usually, flyovers begin on the south end of the stadium from the Field House and since we were on the north side, I expected to have some warning. However, this being the closest I have been to the sky while sitting in Camp Randall Stadium, it seemed fitting that the flyover would appear from the north end directly over our heads. The Hornets exploded over us and appeared close enough to reach. We stood in shock with our eyes blasted open and our mouths dragging along the bleachers. The rumble of the screeching jets continued to shake us deep into the first quarter.
On the field, no amount of shaking could wake up the offenses on either side of the ball. The punters for San Diego State and Wisconsin may as well have been Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick with all the back and forth action they experienced. A scoreless halftime had fans wondering if these passing optional offenses were as dismal as they looked or if the defenses were simply stellar. In the second half, the Badgers continued to rely on their running game and it finally paid dividends. P.J. Hill, who accumulated 184 yards on the day, powered through the line and sped for a fifty-three yard score that hit highlight reels for the evening news. The Aztecs continued to struggle and the Badgers managed one more score bringing the final tally to 14-0.
Even through the action on the field had all the excitement of a knitting festival, the celebration in the stands proved again that it never disappoints. Returning to Madison provides endless thrills with student section antics ranging from shouting rude and random expletives in unison to initiating the most unique wave in sports that features all 81,000 fans around the stadium moving in slow and fast motion. The fifth quarter extended the fun as fans from both teams stayed to dance in the stands and party on a perfect autumn afternoon. Even the Aztec mascot, unscarred by his team’s poor play, joined in as he danced among the band members and rumbled around with Bucky.
Wisconsin has now improved to 3-0, but must head to Ann Arbor to face the top ten ranked Michigan Wolverines. The Badgers will have to dust off the portion of their playbook marked “PASSING” if they care to stand a chance in the largest and most intimidating football stadium in America.