Lucas at Large: Best of Bucky under the lights

The first time the Wisconsin Badgers played under the lights, they literally played "under the lights'' against the Carlisle Indians (pre-Pop Warner, pre-Jim Thorpe) at the Chicago Coliseum, an indoor arena twice the size of New York's Madison Square Garden.

That was in 1896 (predating even Beano Cook by several years).

The Badgers lost, 18-6.

Since then, they have "shined'' under the lights (Musco or otherwise).

Over the last 28 night games, the Badgers have won 25.

Following are the three of the five greatest at Camp Randall Stadium.
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Sept. 22 2007: Wisconsin 17, Iowa 13
After watching the defense give up 31 points to the Citadel the week before, UW head coach Bret Bielema put a muzzle on the unit - the players were off-limits to the media - leading up to the Big Ten opener against the Hawkeyes. The motivational ploy got everybody's attention.

"I thought our defense came with an attitude tonight," Bielema said after the Badgers rattled Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen, who completed just 17-of-37 passes for 169 yards. Christensen was sacked four times and the Hawkeyes converted on only 2-of-16 third downs.

"We attacked the ball," Bielema stressed.

Among the most aggressive was freshman defensive back Aaron Henry, who had a featured role in the UW's nickel package. Blitzing off the edge, Henry ended up with 2.5 sacks.  "I'm not a real superstitious guy, but I'd say those white pants really helped," Henry conceded.

Bielema, who is superstitious, made a wardrobe adjustment. Instead of a wearing red pants with their red jerseys, as the Badgers had in their first two homes game, they switched to white pants. Not that it had anything to do with Henry (the pre-ACL injury Henry) showing off his skills.

"Aaron's a special player," Bielema said. "His mental strength is unbelievable. If you could sign five guys like him every year, you'd be in business. He has the incredible ability to make plays."

(Henry will be starting at safety and returning punts Saturday night against Ohio State)

The punter is usually considered a member of the defense. And that applied to Ken DeBauche, who averaged 47.6 on his eight punts against the Hawks. He had a big impact on field position. Meanwhile, P.J. Hill picked up 113 tough yards on 29 carries.

"I know there's been banter and talk up here (Madison) about how good their defense is,'' said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. "I think they answered that question tonight."

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Aug. 23, 2002: Wisconsin 23, Fresno State 21
The Badgers were seeking revenge from Fresno State, which had embarrassed them, 32-20, the year before on their home turf, with David Carr and Bernard Berrian doing most of the damage. Carr was in the NFL (Jeff Grady replaced him) but Berrian was back (before being injured in the first half.)

Both teams had trouble with ball security under the Friday Night Lights. The Badgers lost a couple of fumbles, while the Bulldogs turned it over four times. That led to a wild ride forcing Wisconsin to rally from three deficits before Mike Allen drilled a 34-yard field goal with 2:05 left to seal the deal.

"I just like it when you find a way to win," said UW coach Barry Alvarez, who was painfully aware of all the mistakes that his team had to overcome." I've always felt that when you have a good season, there are times when you have to play poorly and win and sometimes be a little lucky."

The defense was sparked by sophomore Jim Leonhard, who had two interceptions and knocked down a desperation Fresno State pass on the final play of the game. "When we had a little adversity, we didn't flinch, we fought back," said UW defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove.

On offense, the Badgers got 184 rushing yards from tailback Anthony Davis and some timely playmaking from quarterback Brooks Bollinger who struggled otherwise (11-of-25 for 160 yards).

Wisconsin unveiled a new threat in fullback Matt Bernstein, a 260-pound redshirt freshman, who became the first UW runner since Aaron Stecker (1995) to score two touchdowns in his first game. "Bernstein can run and he can move people," Alvarez said.

Given the 2001 loss to the Bulldogs, and the emptiness of a 5-7 record overall, how big was this win to jump-start the season? "It was huge," said center Al Johnson. "This game was big for everybody. Old guys, young guys. Doesn't matter. Everyone had a bad taste in their mouth from last year."

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Sept. 24, 2005: Wisconsin 23, Michigan 20
As the UW offense moved down the field in methodical fashion -the drive would cover 52 yards on 11 plays - the anxiety grew and so did the crowd noise. "It was the most unbelievable atmosphere that I've ever been in," quarterback John Stocco would say later.

The Badgers were counter-punching, trying to answer a stunning Michigan score; a flea-flicker, no less, resulting in a 49-yard touchdown pass from quarterback to Chad Henne to Mario Manningham. That gave the Wolverines a 20-16 lead with 9:03 remaining.

"I didn't see any bad body language on the sidelines," said UW coach Barry Alvarez. "In fact, I heard John (Stocco) tell everyone, 'This is what we're all about. It's down to this drive.'"

Tailback Brian Calhoun, the workhorse, touched the ball on seven of the first eight plays. He would finish the night with 214 of Wisconsin's 287 total yards (including 35 rushes for 155, and seven catches for 59). "He proved to have excellent endurance," said Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.

Ditto for the Badgers, who had a first-and-goal from the Wolverines' 4-yard line when the drive stalled. Following two incompletions, receivers coach Henry Mason suggested a play to Alvarez.

"Henry mentioned that maybe we can get a quarterback run rather than handing it to Brian because they're going to be keying on Calhoun," Alvarez said. "The way they were deploying, they were looping out, they were trying to get a pass rush and they were not anticipating a quarterback draw. If we don't get it, we've got a timeout and another throw. I thought it was a safe call."

On the snap, right guard Jason Palermo locked up Michigan behemoth Gabe Watson, while left guard Matt Lawrence wrestled Pat Massey to the turf. That created a huge running lane for Stocco, who followed Calhoun and center Donovan Raiola into the end zone.

Stocco scored -- standing up -- with 24 seconds left on the clock. And that allowed the Badgers to finally settle a score with the Wolverines, who had won six straight. "It would have been hard to walk off that field with a loss," said Alvarez, who picked up his first victory against Carr.

As the crowd roared, Alvarez pumped his fist in the air and shook down the thunder from the students in the north end of the stadium. "The atmosphere was right there with Ron Dayne's game," Alvarez said, referencing the magical 1999 moment when Dayne became the NCAA's all-time leading rusher and the Badgers clinched the outright Big Ten championship.

"I thought our fans were in it for all four quarters," a beaming Alvarez concluded. "They stayed with us even when we were struggling early. They hung in there, and that helped make a difference."

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Oct. 10, 1998: Wisconsin 31, Purdue 24
When Boilermakers coach Joe Tiller was asked about the ramifications of playing a night game at Camp Randall Stadium (only the third in school history; including a 34-17 loss to Michigan in 1986 and a 43-7 loss to Colorado in 1995), Tiller cited the extended tailgating and said, "I don't know why it would be louder unless everyone partakes, you know, strictly for medicinal purposes.''

Tiller's quarterback was no laughing matter. Through the first five games of the '98 season, Drew Brees had completed more than 66 percent of his passes for 1,504 yards, 600 more than any other quarterback in the Big Ten. And he was coming off a record-setting performance against Minnesota during which he connected on 31-of-36 for 522 yards and six touchdowns. UW coach Barry Alvarez went to the movies and after watching the film of that game labeled it a "horror show.''

The Badgers had a plan for Brees: a four-deep zone with Jamar Fletcher, Mike Echols, Jason Doering and either Leonard Taylor or Bobby Myers responsible for a quarter of the field. Taking away the deep game came at the expense of giving up the short game, the quick outs.

"We just had to be patient,'' Alvarez said. "Especially knowing that when they got closer to the goal line, they would run out of room, and our guys could squeeze them a little more.''

In what amounted to the greatest aerial show this side of the Pete "Maverick'' Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and Tom "Iceman'' Kazanski  (Val Kilmer) dogfight scenes, Hurricane Drew was the Top Gun in Camp Randall's air space. Brees set an NCAA record with 83 pass attempts, tied another with 55 completions, and threw for 494 yards.

Brees was in such a zone, he probably didn't want it to end. And it nearly didn't. This was a marathon, not a sprint, a 3-hour and 37-minute mini-drama that came down to mistakes. Brees was picked off four times, the Boilermakers lost a fumble and twice failed in short yardage (fourth-and-1), whereas the Badgers, true to Alvarez' word, stayed patient, and survived, 31-24.

"It was one of the craziest games I ever played in -- ever, ever in my life,'' Brees said years later. "It felt like we threw the ball on every play. We were in the two-minute drill basically the entire game. At the end, I was thinking, 'Gosh, I could have thrown the ball 100 times, if it had gone into overtime.'''

Despite running 103 offensive plays, which added up to 33 first downs and 570 yards of total offense, Brees guided Purdue to only two touchdowns, the second coming with just 22 seconds left. And despite all the completions, just one was completed for longer than 20 yards, and that was for 21.

One of the passes that he wanted back was the one that he "completed'' to Fletcher, who stepped in front of wide receiver Randall Lane (who finished with 18 catches) and returned the interception 52 yards for a touchdown breaking a 17-17 tie.

"It put me on the map,'' Fletcher said. "We knew Drew was going to dissect and work the offense. We just waited for him to make a mistake. There comes a time during a game when you have to do something to change the momentum. So I decided to sit on one those quick outs they had been throwing all night. He was looking at Lane from the beginning of the play to the end.''

In the end, Brees probably left Madison with one song ringing in his ears, "Jump Around'' by House of Pain. That made its debut during the third and fourth quarter exchange. Previously, the band had struck up, "If you want to be a Badger Just Come Along with Me.''

"Jump Around'' turned out to be a smash hit; a new Camp Randall tradition.

So get out of your seats and jump around; jump around, jump up, jump up and get down.

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Oct. 11, 2003: Wisconsin 17, Ohio State 10
UW assistant coach Henry Mason decided the timing was right to have a little chat with senior wide receiver Lee Evans. The Badgers were gearing up for a Saturday night date with Ohio State and Mason wanted to make sure that his marquee player knew what was on the line, besides the Buckeyes' highly publicized 19-game winning streak. This was not a pep talk as much as it was an infomercial.

"I can remember saying to him, 'Hey, this is going to be the tape that the NFL scouts are going to put on to see what you can do because you're going up against a quality defensive back in Chris Gamble,'' Mason said. "I wasn't challenging him. I just wanted to make sure that he understood that this was an opportunity for him to get what he wanted -- and that was to be a first round draft pick.''

"56 Jerk" was the name of the play. The number refers to the blocking protection; maximum protection, with two tight ends and a fullback. Jerk is code for the flanker, Evans, to execute a double-move --  out and up. "That play,'' Mason said, "has been here since I walked in the door (in 1995) and it has stood the test of time. It has probably resulted in five or six touchdowns.''

Evans vs. Gamble. That was the game within the game. "In sum, this is what you play college football for -- to play in big games,'' Evans said. "So when you get the chance, you have to embrace it, and take advantage of it. The stage was set. It was the biggest game in the country that day.''

For certain big games, UW coach Barry Alvarez had the players wear rubber bands on their wrists as a reminder of resiliency and maximum concentration. The message: "I'm in, I'm on.''

Focus, 24/7.

During the 40-minute walk-through the morning of the game, Alvarez emphasized to his players, "You can't be in awe of them. Yes, they are a good football team and you have to respect them. But you can't be in awe of them. You have to believe that you can win.''

Just before the Badgers took the field, Alvarez told the team, "You are ready for this. You had a great week of practice and you are ready. No hesitation now. Let's go kick their (bleeps).''

Camp Randall Stadium was rain-swept and up for grabs. And with starting tailback Anthony Davis still nursing an ankle injury, Booker Stanley gave the offense a huge lift by rushing for the first score of the ''smash-mouth'' game. The fireworks were limited to an unscheduled wrestling match.

In the third quarter, the Badgers lost their quarterback, Jim Sorgi, when he was tackled and mugged by Ohio State linebacker Robert Reynolds. In what amounted to a WWE move, Reynolds applied a choke hold to Sorgi's wind pipe. No flag, no Sorgi for the remainder of the night.

As Sorgi was being helped off the field, his offensive center Donovan Raiola was challenging the Ohio State bench to a no-holds barred cage match, Hawaiian style. No takers.

Enter backup quarterback Matt Schabert. On his third series (third-and-15), Schabert got the call from the coaches: 56 Jerk. The game was tied, 10-10. Perfect timing, Henry Mason thought. Particularly since Evans had been setting up Gamble, even though he still hadn't caught a pass.

"We didn't go into the game saying we could beat Gamble,'' Mason said. "We just trusted Lee and the fact that he could beat anybody on that route. If we throw the 'out cut' there, Gamble is going to pick it, and walk into the end zone, and the win.''

Much to Gamble's chagrin, he gambled and lost. It was a double-move with Schabert throwing  and Evans catching the pass in full stride for a 79-yard touchdown that gave the Badgers a 17-10 lead. As he followed Evans down the field, Schabert said, "I was thinking maybe I should do a cartwheel.''

But there was still 5:20 remaining and the Badgers needed one more play out of Schabert to ice the win: a naked bootleg on a third-and-2 which picked up the first down and snapped OSU's streak.

"It was one of the most special moments in my athletic career,'' said Evans, the Ohio native. "Going through everything I went through (with a knee injury that sidelined him for a season) to make a play like that to help our team win against the defending national champions ... ''

He paused and said, "I'm overwhelmed with joy.''

Lee Evans will be the honorary captain Saturday night when the Badgers face the No. 1-ranked Buckeyes. Matt Schabert will be here, too. "It's time to write a new chapter,'' Schabert said.
ON WISCONSIN