The Broncos didn’t stand much of a chance entering the cavernous concrete mountain known as Camp Randall in Madison…or did they? Wisconsin opened this season ranked in the top five and coming off two Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles led by Heisman trophy winner, Ron Dayne. Even with Dayne’s graduation, the Badgers appeared like an impenetrable monster for visiting squads.
After devouring Murray State last week, the Badgers were clearly ready for seconds as Ball State wandered into Madison. With Wisconsin’s flimsy non-conference schedule, many hoped tailback Ron Dayne would continue to accumulate yards toward the nation’s rushing record. However, the Badgers were forced to rely more on special teams and defense in the first half due to an offense that appeared to be in a haze.
Home openers in Madison are a blast…especially when your team is already 1-0 and well oiled. The Badgers had just defeated San Diego State a week earlier out in California. It was a typical 80-degree and humid September day in Wisconsin and the stadium was crammed with many shirtless cheeseheads.
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.