Hawaii’s visit to Madison inspired plastic luau-themed paraphernalia all over campus – palm trees, flowery leis, grass skirts – it’s as close as Wisconsin gets to that level of paradise. During the pregame band festivities, even legendary Badger band leader, Mike Leckrone got into the spirit by making his signature entrance on a surf board.
Many Hawaii fans made the trip from the islands to the Midwest for this interconference clash. The islanders that I spoke with were impressed with Madison and thrilled to be part of this classic Big Ten atmosphere. In return, Hawaii fans expressed pride in pointing out their team’s pregame Haka, a traditional war dance that connects to many of these players’ Polynesian roots (this is a must-see tradition in college sports).
The war dance certainly felt appropriate with the setting being Camp Randall at night – a bonafide battleground. With all day to “prepare,” these Badger fans were loud and boisterous. During the traditional third quarter “jump around,” fans used the flashlight function on their smartphones to sparkle up the stadium – thousands of tiny lights bouncing up and down.
On the field, the Rainbow Warriors were clearly outmatched. Wisconsin’s attack, led by Taiwan Deal, cannonballed Hawaii’s defense with 326 rushing yards. The offense shuffled a bit laboriously, but managed 28 points, while the defense completely stymied their point production. In fact, the same offensive outcome occurred for Hawaii during their trip to Columbus to face #1 Ohio State two weeks earlier. Put another way, that’s 2 games with over 17,000 miles of travel and zero points to show for it.
#CampRandallAfterDark was the night’s theme, and the hype lived up to it. The matchup and clash of cultures was unique for all fans involved. Ultimately, an improving Wisconsin team kept Hawaii from springing a Pacific Ocean sized upset. But, as Big Ten play starts, can the Badgers keep lighting up Camp Randall?