There was so much hype surrounding this game that fans may not have seen a blowout coming. Originally, this game was to be played during the day, but due to its attractiveness, ABC picked it up and used it as part of their Saturday night lineup. Even without Brent Musburger and ABC, the game had built in hype. Both teams were ranked in the top 25, it was the season opener for both teams, Colorado and Wisconsin were both coming off New Years Day bowl victories and once again, the game was at night. Electricity is high in Madison for every game. But, give the fans an entire day to party? Camp Randall was rockin’ and ready for this contest. Many teams are accustomed to having every game nationally televised. Wisconsin was just getting used to it and Barry Alvarez was the physician who breathed life back into the program.
The Illini came into Madison much improved from last season. Their record was only 6-4, but that did not represent their strength. Wisconsin came in 5-4-1. Prior to the game, it was announced that the winner would be invited to the Hall of Fame Bowl in January. However, the situation was different for the loser. If Illinois lost, they would still be headed to a bowl with a winning record of 6-5. If Wisconsin lost, they would not be bowl eligible with a .500 record (5-5-1). A Badger win would serve the Big Ten best because both teams would receive bowl bids resulting in more money and more television exposure. We all hoped that justice would be served on this frigid day in Madison.
Many factors contributed to the dreariness of this game. Being a mid-November game was the first contributor. The day was dark, cold, and almost eerie. It was the quietest group of 77,000 that I have ever heard. Cheering was at a minimum. The game started early to mid afternoon and finished in the darkness.
The Badgers fell from the rankings with their TIE to Purdue. But, that was not the focus this week. All eyes were on revenge as the Gophers came to Madison. Last season, Minnesota was the only team keeping the Badgers undefeated. On top of that, all the relatives we went to visit in Minneapolis last year were coming to Madison for the rematch. Our chests were stuck out again believing that THIS time it would be different since Camp Randall was the venue. Throw in homecoming to the mix and Wisconsin seemed unbeatable.
The last Purdue/Wisconsin game I attended, I was grumbling about the absurdity of tie games. Honestly, you tie your shoes, or tie packages – you even may use one as an accessory around your neck. But, you do not TIE football games.
I never knew how much I liked purple – not that there was a lot of it in the stands on this day. I figured the low attendance was a result of the cold rain that dampened Dyche Stadium. But, I soon learned that Northwestern has had an unfortunate athletic history. 1949 marked their last Rose Bowl experience – or any bowl expereince for that matter. So, even though Wisconsin lost to Michigan State the week before, I felt confident that the Badgers would win with ease.
The thud heard coming from the direction of the Rocky Mountains was the Badgers hitting reality after their 55-17 loss to Colorado last week. Following a Rose Bowl season, such results were neither expected nor welcome in Madison. The Hoosiers entered Camp Randall Stadium with rising expectations.
The anticipation for the 1994 season was extremely high after the Rose Bowl Championship season. A top-ten preseason ranking prodded the excitement further. In addition, the game was preceded by a reenactment of quarterback Darrell Bevell’s key touchdown in Wisconsin’s Rose Bowl triumph. A few band members/students/alumni set up the play on the field while the actual radio broadcast of the play was aired over the PA system. The mock Darrell Bevell slashed to the left and ran twenty-one yards into the end zone. The crowd reacted similarly to the actual event in Pasadena nine months earlier. The entire spectacle was to commemorate the 1993 season, and it was well deserved.
The game against Eastern Michigan on this steamy day was hardly a contest. Wisconsin won 56-0, which only fueled the fire of expectation for the rest of the season. Sitting through such a blowout gave Badger fans a new experience. The anxiety packed games of 1993 appeared to be a thing of the past as Wisconsin ventured in the status of national power. The overmatched Eagles didn’t stand a chance against the defending Big Ten champions. The atmosphere in Camp Randall Stadium had reached high levels of intimidation for opponents, and Wisconsin football had its sights set on many more return trips out west.
The dreadful tie with Ohio State would not keep the Badgers from focusing on the Big Ten title. Two weeks after that game, Michigan clobbered the Buckeyes leaving the door open for Wisconsin. With wins over Illinois and Michigan State (in Tokyo of all places), the Badgers completed one of the most improbable runs in college football history. It took thirty-one years for Wisconsin to return to the Rose Bowl, and this 1993 season would firmly plant my love for college football into the turf.
I missed last week’s game against #24 Michigan, and it left me feeling bittersweet. It would be the last game that I would voluntarily not attend at Camp Randall for the next eleven years. It was a blessing. That Michigan game was the infamous “crowd crush” game that forced all stadiums across the country to reevaluate their stadium structure and safety procedures. Wisconsin defeated Michigan for the first time in many years (thus, the crowd rush). But, it nearly killed so many fans.