Not only were the Broncos entering this game undefeated at 7-0, they were hosting their first game as a ranked team in program history – this got WMU fans to cram themselves into Waldo Stadium.
Lost between the shadows of Michigan Stadium’s 111,000 seat “Big House” and the metropolitan area of Detroit, Rynearson Stadium sits quietly off the campus of Eastern Michigan University. With the Wolverines only ten minutes away, EMU really gets lost in the shuffle. It’s almost like a gathering place where fans who couldn’t get a ticket to the Michigan game can chat about the Big Ten.
The entire state of Michigan focused their attention on the Michigan Wolverines and their response to the earth-shattering upset they endured a week earlier to the Appalachian State Mountaineers. If only the folks in Ypsilanti could care that much about their football team. Eastern Michigan University is only ten minutes from the University of Michigan, but they couldn’t be further apart in fan support and devotion. Attendance numbers for their home opener at Rynearson Stadium did not even surpass the 6,000 mark. The scene looked more like a spring game than a home opener. The highlight of the afternoon probably came at halftime when the 1987 California Bowl champion, Eastern Michigan Hurons, were honored on the field. Twenty years since Eastern’s last bowl game and the empty seats in the stands provided solid proof. As the game continued, it became clear that their streak of bowl absences would continue.
No preseason rank. Expectations running medium to low. Wisconsin football tasted the pavement last year by not returning to a bowl and the bitterness carried over into the 1996 season. Eastern Michigan came in to Madison sporting a new look and a heightened spirit. Something told me that this would not be the same 56-0 shutout that the Badgers dropped on the Eagles two years ago. Yet still, this was Big Ten football against Middle American Conference football. No matter how Wisconsin would bounce back from last year, it certainly couldn’t be with a loss to EMU.
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.