MADISON — On Friday afternoon, I drove my way to the Stephen M. Bennett Student-Athlete Performance Center, essentially connected to Camp Randall Stadium, to cover a special celebration. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez and former quarterback Darrell Bevell were available to speak with the media as members of the 1993 squad that smelled roses reunited for a 25-year celebration.
While I had the opportunity to speak with both, I was more taken aback by the former players that showed up in Madison this weekend. A mass reunion of hugs, loud chatter, and showing off respective families ensued as the media waited to speak with the two iconic Badgers. In a press release, UW announced that more than 70 former players and coaches would attend this weekend’s celebration, with the team being honored at halftime of Wisconsin’s 41–24 win over Nebraska.
The 1993 season holds a significance in my football fandom. I was around nine or 10 years old during that season when the sport became relevant again throughout the state of Wisconsin. The Green Bay Packers, under the leadership of head coach Mike Holmgren and a certain gunslinger named Brett Favre, played winning, playoff-bound football (oh, and Reggie White signed that season as well).
In Madison, Alvarez and his coaching staff guided a team to its first Rose Bowl berth in over 30 years, then decided to win the whole damn thing. It was a pigskin renaissance in the Badger state, with my family members donning cardinal and white Rose Bowl sweatshirts as Wisconsin shook up college football with the 21–16 win over UCLA.
I spoke with a UW official on Friday, noting how, back in the day, the Milwaukee Journal printed out “trading cards” in its issues and how I would cut them out of the newspaper and glue them on old Jay’s potato chip cardboard boxes.
Without hesitation, he took me to one of the glass cases in the Hall of Champions inside the Student-Athlete Performance Center. As I saw some of those cards on display, I briefly transformed back into that youthful, naive boy.
Let me say that as a member of the “media” covering Wisconsin athletics, objectivity has overcome me to the point at which I’m balanced and omniscient (at least, in my opinion). Now, as a hometown Milwaukee boy, you will see tweets and tweets about the current Brewers squad during the MLB postseason (Yelich and that bullpen!).
Reporting on the Badgers, however, I hold myself to a much higher standard. For about 120 seconds, though, I was able to channel my inner kid—to a time much more innocent—and remembered the hype and the hunger Wisconsin fans had nearly 25 years ago that turned to elation and celebration when the clock struck zero in Pasadena.
Then I snapped out of it, put the “capital J” journalism cap back on and joined the group scrum to interview Bevell, a hero of the Rose Bowl known for his 21-yard touchdown run, the one scramble I remember watching on my old tube television nearly a quarter-century ago.
I barely saw every player that was in attendance, as they were filtering out of the entrance of the Student-Athlete Performance Center and moving to elevators taking them elsewhere in the facility.
However, name tags for former Badgers Pete Monty, Kenny Gales, Jason Burns, Matt Nyquist, assistant John Palermo, and others popped out to me. There was no star-struck feeling that I knew from my younger self—or heck, even me seven years ago before starting my foray into journalism—but it was quite the sight, seeing the players embracing and catching up.
For Walk-On This Way, I was able to speak with a couple walk-ons from that squad, Sam Veit and Chris Hein. Both were in attendance on Friday, and I kept my conversations quick and succinct with them, as I didn’t want to take up the precious time they had with their former teammates. I thanked them for the opportunity to tell their stories, which both Joel Nellis and I are (still) immensely grateful for.
As I went back to my car, I wondered for the new generation of Wisconsin fans if they will ever know how much that 1993 team meant to the program, to the success it has enjoyed since that season. That squad changed the complexion and trajectory of Badgers football, and that Rose Bowl win was one of the catalysts for what everyone sees now.
Anyways, thanks for reading. Back to Saturday’s game.
Whole offensive line
Sweet Christmas, 370 yards on 48 carries and nearly averaging eight yards per carry. Easily said, the Wisconsin o-line got the job done.
Three-headed backfield of Jonathan Taylor, Taiwan Deal, and Garrett Groshek
Taylor goes off for 221 yards, an 88-yard touchdown run, and three touchdowns altogether. Deal scores on a 20-yard run with 74 total rushing yards and Groshek (despite a fumble) goes for 73 yards.
Adrian Martinez, JD Spielman
Gotta respect their games. Martinez threw for 384 yards and two touchdowns while Spielman put together a school-record 209 yards for the Huskers. According to Nebraska, Spielman broke his own record after hitting 200 yards against Ohio State last year and has recorded the only 200-yard receiving games Huskers history. Seriously.
Averaged 30 yards per return and showed explosiveness in the kick-return game since his 30-yard return in the season opener. The true freshman also threw a sweet block on Taylor’s 88-yard touchdown run.
Game notes (thanks to UW)
- Wisconsin now owns a six-game winning streak against Nebraska.
- According to UW, its offense has scored in the final 1:30 of the first half in 22 of 46 contests since Paul Chryst has been head coach.
- Taylor’s 88-yard touchdown is the fourth-longest run in UW history.
- Taylor’s 221-yard performance marks the fifth time in his career that he has eclipsed the 200-yard mark, and the second time this season.
- Both Deal and Groshek had career-best days rushing the ball (74 and 73 yards, respectively).
- With his 28-yard field goal in the second quarter, Rafael Gaglianone tied Todd Gregoire for the most field goals in school history with 65. As UW noted, with his 11 points (two field goals, five extra points), the redshirt senior placekicker also moved past Philip Welch for third all-time on Wisconsin’s scoring list (385).
After this weekend, will we see some potential commitments? There is buzz surrounding current Kansas commit Clay Cundiff, who was on an official visit to Wisconsin this weekend. If he is offered, will he take the chance to flip?
Also in the class of 2019, inside linebacker Jared Casey visited Wisconsin. He announced he will decide on Thursday, with the Badgers being in his top four.
B5Q at Bierock this week!
You’re dang right I’m promoting the crap out of our weekly podcast shows from an amazing restaurant. Tuesday, 7 p.m. CT, at Bierock (2911 N. Sherman Ave. in Madison). We should have a special guest, but we’ll announce that hopefully later today. Take in the great food at Bierock and chat with us.
Wisconsin at Michigan
The fourth night game in six contests for the Badgers, and it will be a daunting task against Shea Patterson and a dominating Michigan defense next Saturday night (6:30 p.m. CT, ABC).