Game 36: #1 Michigan @ #23 Wisconsin

The day before this game, I walked down to Camp Randall Stadium to watch ABC set up their cameras and get ready for the big game. I walked inside the stadium and ventured to the upper deck to get a wider view. Essentially, I was the only one in the stands making up one of the near eighty thousand that would pack the stadium tomorrow.

It didn’t take long for me to see the real purpose of my visit that day – Keith Jackson. The legendary ABC announcer was calling the Michigan/Wisconsin game and he had just strolled in the stadium to shoot a small promo for tomorrow’s contest. As soon as he finished, I ran down to the communication entrance of the stadium hoping that I would catch him before he went to his hotel. Suddenly, Keith Jackson emerged from the gates and he stood only a few feet from me. I worked up what I was going to say, inched toward him and muttered in a weak tone, “Excuse me, Mr. Jackson?” He turned and acknowledged me. I asked him if we could take a picture together. I expected him to bust out a “Whoa Nellie!” but he was extremely gracious and the picture turned out perfectly.

At the game the next day, I shared the story with all my friends as we anxiously awaited Michigan’s entrance to the field. This would be my first time seeing a number one ranked team. In addition, it would be the second time I have been in the company of a Heisman trophy winner. Two years ago, I saw Ohio State’s Eddie George tear up the Badgers. Today, it would be Michigan’s Charles Woodson. The Wolverines’ entrance onto the field was classic and when they lined up for their first play, a significant size difference was evident between them and the Badgers.

Michigan took a 16-3 lead into the clubhouse at halftime. Wisconsin came out clawing in the second half and scored on a quarterback sneak, closing the lead to six and thawing out the frozen crowd. But, being the top ranked team in the nation, Michigan didn’t allow themselves to get flustered. They continued to fight and never let the Badgers gain momentum. The final read 26-16. Most impressive was Wisconsin’s determination. At the start of the game, coach Barry Alvarez chose not to play star running back Ron Dayne in order to nurse his injury. Carl McCullough stepped in and played remarkably. Michigan was challenged. But, they weren’t daunted.

The Wolverines would go on to win a share of the national championship that season. The Badgers dropped their last two including the Outback Bowl against Georgia. But, a more prestigious New Year’s bowl game loomed ahead for Wisconsinites the following season…


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