In the fourth quarter, a Badger fan in front of me exclaimed, “I would rather see Iowa’s offense with the ball at their own ten than Wisconsin’s offense with the ball anywhere.” It sure seemed logical – the Badger defense appeared to possess a higher probability of scoring. It was that kind of game.
Hawaii’s visit to Madison inspired plastic luau-themed paraphernalia all over campus – palm trees, flowery leis, grass skirts – it’s as close as Wisconsin gets to that level of paradise. During the pregame band festivities, even legendary Badger band leader, Mike Leckrone got into the spirit by making his signature entrance on a surf board.
The Gophers had a shot at something they haven’t achieved since 1967 – a Big Ten title. Of course, that would mean defeating Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium, a feat undone since 1994. It would also include beating Ohio State the following week, an accomplishment only realized twice since that magical 1967 season. Minnesota’s 2014 edition, however, could put a challenge into both the Badgers and Buckeyes. Today would be for the Big Ten West Division title. Paul Bunyan’s Axe was also at stake. This highly coveted trophy awarded to the winner of this border battle has been in Wisconsin’s trophy case for ten straight years -more incentive for Minnesota.
On homecoming day in Madison, both Maryland and Wisconsin found themselves seeking a breakout victory to help maintain their relevance in the hunt for the Big Ten title. The Badger offense looked one dimensional and inconsistent. The Maryland defense looked tattered and frayed. No one quite knew what outcome to expect, and the whole situation had been bent into a question mark.
Fans flooded Madison like a monsoon for another football Saturday. Red lit up the streets, and the skies only rained sunshine and warmth upon the UW campus. Badger game days make an already vibrant town burst at the seams with a fervent electricity. Cram your car into a makeshift parking lot amongst the surroundings of Camp Randall’s residential neighborhood. Grab a beer and a brat at union south. Snap a quick double selfie with Bucky (it was his birthday today after all). Take in the sounds of the UW marching band. It’s game day.
We arrived on campus. Barely in time. It was worth the mad dash from our parking spot on University Avenue to the pregame band concert at Union South. Few attempted to dodge the drizzle as the masses gathered to soak in the weather and the sounds of the UW band. I brought friends of mine – supporters of The Hoosiers and I’m glad they were part of the action – literally. Famed band director Mike Leckrone asked if any Indiana fans were in the crowd – naturally, I shouted and pointed out my friends who suddenly had thousands of Badger eyes glaring in their direction. Leckrone shared that he was from Indiana and our friends made the “IU” symbol with their arms, to which Leckrone replied, “None of that now!” It’s kind of a welcome by fire.
What do you call a BYU fan in a bar?
Okay, overused joke, I know. But, since BYU became independent, they have visited many foreign campuses where a joke like this is fresh. Welcome to Madison, Cougars. Wisconsin fans are primarily quick-witted and knee-slappingly funny, but this bit of humor was only worthy of a smirk and an eye-roll. Nevertheless, it is fun introducing fans who appreciate a top notch college atmosphere to one of the Big Ten’s best.
My love affair with Camp Randall began 25 years ago. It wasn’t love at first sight – I was dragged to games as a kid. But, as I attended more games, I grew up with a Wisconsin program that experienced its own growth spurt. We attended many games in the 90s as Wisconsin developed into a championship caliber team. Becoming a student at UW-Madison further deepened the well of memories that this stadium generated for me, and it has carried on into my adulthood.
Which team can bounce back from their let downs suffered the week prior? The Boilermakers left it all on the field in a close loss to in state rival, Notre Dame. The Badgers were stripped of a chance to kick a game winning field goal at Arizona State due to an aggredious clock management error by the referees. Two teams, needing to move on, charged out into Camp Randall Stadium.
If I spent all summer writing the perfect script, I still couldn’t have come up with what transpired on Saturday. Yes, much of it was scripted, and planned for nearly ten months. But, perfection reached new heights at Camp Randall…all prior to kickoff. August 31,2013 marked the 50th anniversary of my parents. My loving father, however, passed away 7 years ago. My brother, who shared my father’s name, passed away nine months earlier. That trying year for our family has brought us closer together, and despite my father’s absence, this fiftieth anniversary could not be overlooked.