UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Best of the Border Battle in Madison

You wouldn't normally associate "memorable'' with a tie game (hence the hackneyed expression that a tie is akin to kissing your kin). But there are some notable exceptions.

Like the 1966 Battle of the Unbeatens -- No. 1 Notre Dame versus No. 2 Michigan State -- which resulted in a memorable 10-10 draw and co-national champions.

On a different level, Minnesota and Wisconsin battled to a 21-21 tie in the final game of the 1952 regular season at Camp Randall Stadium.  Even though the teams combined for 14 turnovers, there were many highlights, including Alan Ameche and Harland Carl each rushing for over 100 yards.

So what was so memorable? With the tie, the Badgers wound up tied for first place in the Big Ten with Purdue. Both finished with 4-1-1 records. And since the Badgers and the Boilermakers didn't play each other that season, the tie-breaker was a vote of the conference's athletic directors.

Overall, Wisconsin was 6-2-1, while Purdue was 4-3-2 and that made it a no-brainer. The Badgers got the nod over the Boilers by a 7-3 vote and represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl (where they lost 7-0 to Southern Cal despite outrushing the Trojans, 211-48.).

That's the backdrop for our five most memorable games between the Badgers and the Gophers in Camp Randall history. There's no particular order and you can rank them on your own. Or, you can add to our list any other memorable Border Battles on Madison turf.

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November 23, 2002: Wisconsin 49, Minnesota 31
There was no sugar-coating what was riding on the outcome of the regular season finale. Win, and the Badgers would qualify for a bowl. Lose, and they would be home for the holidays for a second straight year. Nothing personal. But nobody wanted to spend another Christmas with their families.

The 2001 season had ended in mind-numbing frustration; back-to-back losses to Michigan and Minnesota (snapping a six-game winning streak against the Gophers). That added up to a 5-7 record. Quarterback Brooks Bollinger didn't want to re-live that nightmare.

Before making his final home appearance, Bollinger got up in front of his teammates and made sure they recognized what was at stake in 2002. He got so worked up, so emotional about the potential consequences that he broke down in tears.

"Brooks was the leader of all 125 guys,'' said offensive tackle Jason Jowers. "I think back to how fired up and emotional he was before that Minnesota game. He refused to lose. I remember him saying that our last memory from Camp Randall was not going to be a loss.''

The Badgers had to overcome deficits of 24-21 in the third quarter and 31-28 in the fourth quarter before finally crushing the Gophers, 49-31.

An opportunistic Wisconsin defense was sparked by Jim Leonhard, a gritty sophomore walk-on from Flambeau High in the tiny northern Wisconsin village of Tony. Playing with a broken wrist, Leonhard still intercepted his ninth and 10th passes of the season, breaking Neovia Greyer's school record. Both picks ended Minnesota scoring threats in the end zone late in the game.

Offensively, the Badgers had a season-high 550 total yards. Bollinger rushed 18 times for 112 yards, while completing 6 of 12 passes for 134 yards. But he was overshadowed by tailback Anthony Davis who ran for 301 yards and five touchdowns.

With time running out, Davis punctuated his performance with a career-long 71-yard touchdown. Center Al Johnson was the first to reach Davis in the end zone and Johnson hoisted Davis straight-up in the air, well-above his shoulders, like he was symbolically making a toast to the heavens.

On this day, Davis must have felt like he was walking on air.

Ditto for all the seniors.

"You kind of envision how you want it to all end,'' Bollinger said. "And fortunately today it was pretty much exactly how I envisioned it ending.'' With a win over the Gophers and a bowl invitation.

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November 23, 1974: Wisconsin 49, Minnesota 14
The stunning upset victory over No. 2-ranked Nebraska in September had become a distant memory, maybe even a rumor after the Badgers lost three of their first four Big Ten games.  Injuries had taken a toll, claiming All-American right offensive tackle Dennis Lick, among others.

Despite the setbacks, they were able to rally behind their junior tailback: 5-foot-8, 185-pound Billy Marek, who rushed for 206 yards and four touchdowns against Iowa and 230 yards and four touchdowns against Northwestern in back-to-back games.

Next up was Minnesota. And Marek needed just 89 yards to reach 1,000 for the season.

"We try to sustain our blocks longer because with Billy we have to be more aware of his cutback ability and what he can do once he gets into the open field,'' said guard Terry Stieve. "It's been fun to be an offensive lineman this year. And it's great to humiliate your opponent.''

Especially when they're the Gophers, he added.

After Minnesota' Rick Upchurch returned the opening kickoff 100 yards, the Badgers and Marek too full control of the game and humbled the Gophs, 49-14. Marek had 43 carries for 304 yards and five touchdowns. He also had a 65-yard scoring run washed out because of a penalty.

On defense, cornerback Ken Simmons recovered two fumbles, forced another and intercepted one of Tony Dungy's passes. But on this cold, rainy, foggy day, Marek was the shining star. Again.

With three straight games over 200 rushing yards (740 total), he tied the NCAA record set the year before by Penn State's John Cappelletti.

"I don't think the offensive line can take credit today,'' Stieve said after the Minnesota rout. "Billy looked like he was doing it all on his own.''

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November 19, 1966: Wisconsin 7, Minnesota 6
Following a 23-0 loss to Purdue on Homecoming and a 49-14 loss at Illinois (during which the Illini led 49-0 before clearing the bench), UW head coach Milt Bruhn knew that he was in trouble. The Badgers were four years removed from the Rose Bowl and the bottom was dropping out.

Two days before playing the Gophers, the 54-year-old Bruhn announced his resignation, effective after the season finale against Minnesota. The forever classy Bruhn conceded, "When you have a season like we had this year (2-6-1), if a change can be made that will help, I'm all for it.''

Bruhn's 11-year record of 52-45-6 included two undisputed Big Ten titles. The Badgers got their money's worth. Bruhn's salary was $20,228, and he worked on a year-to-year basis with no contract.

All that was left now was one final game, one last hurrah.

The Badgers and the Gophers were both anchored in the second division of the Big Ten and they played to that level with neither team doing much on offense. The difference was a blocked PAT.

In lifting his career record to 7-3-1 against his alma mater, Bruhn scored one of his most heartfelt wins given the circumstances. Recognizing the significance of the moment, the players hoisted Bruhn on their shoulders and rode him to the center of the field.

"I think his players appreciated him as a man and as a coach,'' Pat Richter said of his mentor. "But I'm not sure if the public fully appreciated his coaching.''

Bruhn went out a winner, which was memorable, because the Badgers didn't win again until October 11, 1969; a span of two-plus seasons, countless heartache and 23 games (0-22-1).

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November 20, 1954: Wisconsin 27, Minnesota 0
Alan "the Horse'' Ameche really was a horse, a work horse.

Some say UW assistant George Lanphear tagged him with the moniker because Ameche worked like a horse in practice. Some say Ameche ran with high-knee action and pranced like a horse.

Some say Ameche threw off tacklers like an ill-tempered rodeo bronco. Some say "Horse'' was short for "Iron Horse,'' which was a testimonial to Ameche's durability as a two-way player.

By the end of the '54 season, though, Ameche was limited by injuries. Ironically, in his final home appearance, he was no factor in a 27-0 skunking of the overmatched Gophers.

Ameche, a senior, managed just 13 carries for 26 yards. But he did score twice and played a strong game at linebacker. The Badgers intercepted four passes, four by Clarance Bratt.

In the end, the UW's nine other seniors put Ameche on their shoulders and carried him off the field. Turnaround was fair play since Ameche had carried the offense , earning him the Heisman Trophy.

This was a very special day for those seniors:  Ameche, Bratt, Jim Temp, Gary Messner, Bobby Gingrass, Norm Amundsen, Ronnie Locklin, Clarence Stensby, Don Ursin and Glen Wilson. As a class, they were 26-8-3, 18-5-3 in the Big Ten, 16-2-2 at Camp Randall.

When he left Wisconsin, Ameche was the NCAA's all-time leading rusher with 3,212 yards.

"Playing with Ameche was exciting because the kid had no fear,'' Temp said. "He was as hard as a rock from the top of his head to the tip of his toes. When you hit him - with your head or your shoulders or whatever part of your anatomy - you got hit BY him, and you felt it.''

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November 9, 1996: Wisconsin 45, Minnesota 28
Standing on the sidelines with his defensive teammates, Jason Suttle couldn't resist the urge to sneak a peak, or 50, of the offense and tailback Ron Dayne (one in the same).

The Badger cornerback wasn't subtle about the Minnesota defensive backs who were shortarming all day. "It looked like they were scared to tackle Ron,'' Suttle said.

The 5-foot-10, 260-pound Dayne saw the same thing. "I noticed that,'' he said. "After awhile, they'd start acting like they were going to tackle me, and then dive towards the ground.''

Dayne, who was nursing a bruised left heel, had a school-record 50 carries for 297 yards and three touchdowns. He also broke the NCAA freshman record for carries, previously held by Wake Forest's James McDougal who had 46 rushes against Clemson in 1976.

"Our (offensive) line killed their guys and I ran through them,'' said Dayne, who gashed the Gophers defense primarily behind the thrusts of 382-pound tight end Aaron Gibson, 330-pound tackle Jerry Wunsch and 262-pound H-back Kevin Lyles.

Dayne wasn't the whole show. Quarterback Mike Samuel completed 11 of 13 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. And with flanker Tony Simmons sidelined with an injury, Donald Hayes helped fill the void with five catches for 100 yards.

Wisconsin had the ball for nearly 16 minutes more than Minnesota.

"This was a very emotional game for our seniors,'' said UW coach Barry Alvarez.

This was also a very memorable game for Dayne who ran 30 times for 244 yards against Purdue the week before. "He's just starting to get lathered up,'' Alvarez said. "He's got a lot of great days ahead of him.''

Minnesota coach Jim Wacker was already sold on No. 33, Dayne. "He's the toughest kid in the Big Ten to bring down,'' he said. "He's for real.''

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