Auburn. Appalachian State. Boise State. Texas. USC. Fresno State. Boston College. Cal.
With the five-year anniversary of Wisconsin knocking off Kentucky in the 2015 Final Four (and nothing else to talk about), there has been a lot of reminiscing. Stories about where you were and who you were with, celebrating one of the most iconic sports moments in Wisconsin basketball history. This is the event that if you mention you’re a Wisconsin basketball fan, strangers with no ties to Madison would mention it.
What’s the football version? What’s the moment that Badger fans build mental shrines to, that our haters in the Big 10 envy, that captures some large part of the national attention? What’s our Kick Six, our I-AA over the No. 5 team, our Statue of Liberty, our 2005 National Championship, our “Reggie Bush Thesis Statement,” our “FLUTIE DID IT,” our “The ball is still loose, as they get it to Rodgers! They get it back now to the 30, they’re down to the 20... Oh, the band is out on the field! He’s gonna go into the end zone! He got into the end zone! Oh, my God! The most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending... exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football! California has won the Big Game over Stanford.”
I have a few suggestions.
1963 Rose Bowl
AND THEY START WITH A LOSS. This is No. 1 USC holding off No. 2 Wisconsin’s furious fourth quarter rally in Granddaddy of them All. It was played 22 year before I was born, but still shows up on internet listicles of “greatest bowl games.”
1994 Rose Bowl
Badger fans turning out in droves to turn UCLA’s home stadium into Camp Randall West to see Barry Alvarez take a Wisconsin football team that was a multi-decade-long laughingstock into one of the Big 10’s powers. Darrell Bevell celebrating the exact second his foot hit the goal line. My mom said if Wisconsin won, my brother and I could each have a Seroogy’s bar. That’s how important this was.
On a burst through Iowa’s defense, Ron Dayne put his name in the NCAA record books as the all-time leading rusher in college football - sit down San Diego State, nobody wants your asterisk soliloquy.
2003/2010 Ohio State
How do you pick? Both were night games with massive implications. Do you lean to the “knocking off the defending national champions with a massive win streak,” with the dramatics of a backup QB throwing to Lee Evans after a double move that I might as well have tattooed on the inside of my eyelids? Or, do you want the “we’re back!” poetry of that 2010 team using the win as a springboard to the first Big 10 title in 10 years? Does the fact College GameDay was at the 2010 one matter? Ehh?
A national record broken in three quarters of work, Melvin Gordon’s doctoral thesis on Badger football establishing the run reverberated around sports. Matt Hinton captured it so well in his recap of that weeks action: “Grange got Grantland Rice eulogizing the exploits of the “Gray Ghost”; Gordon got NFL stars reacting on Twitter.” Even though his record fell in a scant week, Samaje Perine’s work against Kansas didn’t get the same attention. I scared myself by only missing one letter in his name when I looked it up.
My answer is we don’t have one yet. College football’s history is long, regional, complicated, and deeply personal. I can tell people about the beat up red couch I watched the 1994 game sitting next to, or the Ogg Hall lounge with others that were dumb enough to not buy football tickets, or tell my friend’s dad the last time we saw each other was the Melvin Gordon game. I also have the University of Wisconsin deeply woven into my life in multiple ways. I don’t know if any of those moments resonate with people that have that same relationship with Auburn, or Texas, or Cal.
That’s also why we watch sports. Sometimes, you get a 2015 Kentucky, and it makes the 2014 Kentucky bearable. But your ticket never says “This game you’ll want to remember for the rest of your life.” With around 130 major college teams, the odds are good there will be other fan bases that can claim a higher high. We hope for those moments that make the losses palatable.
What’s The Most Iconic Badger Football Game?
This poll is closed
1963 Rose Bowl
1994 Rose Bowl
2003 Ohio State
2010 Ohio State