The scene in Kalamazoo is one of those that gives the smaller venues in college football a great reputation. The fans that fill Waldo Stadium are lively, devoted, and help to make Western Michigan football relevant.
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.
Michigan State should get a lot of credit for scheduling Boise State, a well known giant killer, in the opening game of the year. The Broncos are without much of the talent that took them to such great heights over the past few years, but are known to still never be taken lightly. A packed Spartan Stadium filled with green and white except for a couple bright orange corners that vibrantly represented the visitors from Idaho.
In recent years, Toledo has been to the Middle American Conference as Michigan is to the Big Ten – a dominant, conference champion-grabbing machine. Western Michigan has enjoyed only one victory over the Rockets in the past twelve years. Both teams gathered in Kalamazoo on this chilly, atypical September evening carrying 0-1 records. With this matchup being a conference clash, neither team could afford to dig themselves deeper into the loss column. Already at week two, the Rockets and Broncos were in must-win situations.
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.
Boise State and I had one big thing in common when entering this game. We both were experiencing our first game at a higher level. For me, this was my first game as a student at UW-Madison. For Boise State, this was their first game playing a Division I-A team as a member of the same division. I suppose you could say that we were both freshmen. My brother, who got all of us tickets in the senior section, made that fact abundantly clear by chanting, “FRESHMAN!”, while pointing at me. My face turned a Badger red.