Game 53: Iowa @ #9 Wisconsin

Perfect is a word that shouldn’t be thrown around that often. However, there is no better word when in those rare moments every word of the script, every choreographed movement, and every musical note is not only right on, but performed effortlessly.

Consider the following: Penn State who had been barreling through the Big Ten like Paul Bunyan through a forest, suddenly slips right as the Badgers are hitting their stride. The Lions lose three straight and lose their hopes at the Big Ten. Secondly, Ron Dayne is a two-digit number from breaking the all time rushing record and most-assuredly winning the Heisman at his last home game on Senior Day. They play Iowa, the Big Ten’s worst team and one of the worst against the rush. The site is Camp Randall Stadium where it can be celebrated by as many that can shoehorn themselves into the stadium. The weather is over seventy degrees and sunny…in the middle of November. Even if it was global warming causing the surge in the mercury, it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. A cold day would have caused everyone to wear multi-colored parkas as opposed to the vivid red that beamed from the stands. Towels were handed to each fan as they entered commemorating the star of the day.

Ron Dayne received a rattling welcome as he took the field surrounded by 79,000 swinging towels. Anxiety was detectable, but most fans knew he would surpass the 99 yards he needed to top the rushing charts. Wisconsin started the game strong and Dayne chugged along as usual. With every run, the crowd gasped and cheered as they watched the yards melt away on the scoreboard countdown.

Early in the second quarter, the climactic moment occurred. Dayne went right in classic bulldozing form, and picked up the last few yards he needed to reach the record and raise the bar. Hugs, tears, and screams spread through the stadium. While the record was being announced over the PA system and as Dayne received a mauling by his teammates, one fan chose to show his appreciation in a more conspicuous fashion. A streaker bolted from one corner of the endzone across the field to the other side where a host of police officers were there to greet (and clothe) him. His version of the naked bootleg summed up every fan’s feelings in the stadium.

The Badgers continued the game and with each Dayne run, the crowd mocked the announcer’s call of his name, “RON DAYNE!” Even after Dayne was excused from play, the crowd continued their cheer for the backup, “MATT UNERTL!” The name didn’t exactly have a mellifluous tone, but it created great amusement.

Late in the game, head coach Barry Alvarez hobbled down to the field on his crutches to give Ron Dayne a celebratory embrace. Alvarez had been plagued with a bad knee all season causing him to spend the last few games in the pressbox.

Wisconsin finished off Iowa 41-3 and won the Big Ten outright sending them back to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl. The trophy presentation was emotional as Dayne’s name was unveiled along the façade under the pressbox. Every fan in Camp Randall held up their towels honoring their favorite senior and thanking him for four amazing years. Dayne went on to win the Heisman trophy in a landslide as the Badgers now focused on one final game in this miraculous season – “The Grandaddy Of Them All” Yup, I would say that “perfect” sums it all up.

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