On homecoming day in Madison, both Maryland and Wisconsin found themselves seeking a breakout victory to help maintain their relevance in the hunt for the Big Ten title. The Badger offense looked one dimensional and inconsistent. The Maryland defense looked tattered and frayed. No one quite knew what outcome to expect, and the whole situation had been bent into a question mark.
The weather couldn’t have been more agreeable. Fans fantasize about perfect football days like this – the cloudless ones that provide the sunshine and warmth to reflect every autumn color in October’s grand finale. Football was ready to take center stage in Madison. The Terrapins have never played in Camp Randall Stadium, which serves as one of the rites-of-passage venues for newbies to the Big Ten. The novelty of the moment certainly wasn’t lost on Badger fans. This is a new Big Ten team – a bit geographically displaced perhaps, but brand new nonetheless. Maryland came in with their swag. Slick UnderArmour uniforms, the state flag stamping every logo and tshirt – a giant turtle. Wisconsin fans were brimming with a mixed feeling: “Welcome to the Big Ten!” and “Good luck – you’re going to need it.”
As it turned out, the question marks that surrounded this game would quickly straighten into exclamation points. Maryland fans wouldn’t be wasting too many scrapbook pages on this day – the Kodak moments were scarce. Wisconsin found their passing game, and 52 points later, Maryland found utter chagrin. Perhaps it was Camp Randall’s intimidation factor – you know – iconic venue, noisy crowd, the jump around. And perhaps it was that fact that the Terrapins couldn’t find the endzone if it were tucked inside their shells. From quarter 1 to quarter 5, The Badgers dominated and had “On Wisconsin” ringing in the heads of every onlooker.
After dancing during the 5th Quarter to classics like “Swingtown,” “Time Warp,” and “Tequila,” we trekked to State Street where I met a fan who had attended both Maryland and Wisconsin, as evidenced by his homemade t-shirt, which was a combination of both teams sewn in the middle to read “Maryonsin.” His crossbred apparel suggested a split allegiance, but his Maryland flag socks demonstrated the true sentiments of his heart. He was disgusted by the Terrapins performance – “the worst the offense looked in years,” he claimed. Respectfully, I had to agree. They just didn’t put in a full t-shirt’s worth of a performance today. This very kind fan seemed to appreciate the fact that most teams have to relive puberty when entering a new conference. Seldom is it a smooth transition, and Maryland is bound to experience more pimples ahead.
So, was this a break out victory for Wisconsin? That is one question that only November can answer. In the meantime, this beautiful day surely would be the last football Saturday that sitting by Lake Mendota would be a comfortable endeavor – a fitting way to celebrate a homecoming victory.