Hurricane Irma had canceled, postponed, or relocated games for all the college football teams in the state in Florida, except for Florida Atlantic. The Owls traveled to Madison the day prior to the game and two days prior to the storm making landfall. The team felt more comfortable doing so since the University of Wisconsin offered to house and take care of the team as the storm passed through. Needless to say, a football game was not the main concern for Florida Atlantic.
New FAU coach, Lake Kiffin, has infused a splash of national appeal to the program, despite his somewhat infamous status. His rocky stop at Tennessee and inability to fight on for his job at USC landed him at Alabama as an offensive coordinator where his personality didn’t quite roll high with head boss, Nick Saban. Kiffin is known for turbulent tenures at the campuses where he coaches. But, Florida Atlantic was willing to take the risk to tap into his outstanding offensive operation.
Wisconsin fans weren’t about to welcome Kiffin with a red carpet. Let’s just say that his name was chanted, following a few choice expletives. As a 33 point underdog and thoughts of the impending hurricane at home, the Owls were expected to collapse under the pressure of their Big Ten foe.
However, even with the Badgers jumping out to a 14-0 lead, the Owls managed to connect on a crowd silencing 63 yard score. Florida Atlantic held their own by holding Wisconsin to only a 24-14 advantage at half. The Badgers muscled through to a 31-14 victory lead by freshman running back Jonathan Taylor’s 223 yard performance.
The energy at Camp Randall was high as usual, but with a historic twist being the 100th anniversary of this grand old venue. Honored as legend of The Camp was 81 year old band director, Mike Leckrone. Leader of the UW Marching band since 1969, Leckrone has revolutionized the sound and tradition surrounding Badger football Saturdays. From the pregame band concert at Union South to the 5th quarter postgame celebration, Leckrone led the musical heartbeat of this stadium, and kept the barrel rolling today as he was honored for his incomparable contribution to this program.
An almost utopian early autumn day finished with a little time on Lake Mendota’s terrace and an evening of dinner and delight around the capitol dome.
Florida Atlantic would spend an extended stay in Madison while expressing gratitude for UW’s hospitality along the way. As a Badger alum, I was very proud of Wisconsin’s response to their opponent’s unpleasant situation – just another one of the special aspects of college athletics that extends beyond the gridiron.