Lucas at Large: Wins at Big House have led to big rewards

Rose Bowl to No Bowl? Stud to Dud? That was the backdrop for a wounded Wisconsin team's appearance at the Big House on Oct. 29, 1994. Everybody had given up on the 3-3-1 Badgers.

Except the players and the coaches.

Following an emotionally-draining home loss to Minnesota, the players got together before practice that Tuesday and got everything off their chest in a "stand up and be counted" meeting.

Offensive guard Joe Rudolph stressed the importance of doing all the little things and returning to a commitment to the fundamentals, while also emphasizing team-oriented goals and expectations (Rudolph is now a Badger assistant and recruiting coordinator).

UW coach Barry Alvarez added some context to the discussion when he noted, "You get stroked after the Rose Bowl for a long period of time, and then you get kicked like a dog for a couple of weeks."

The Badgers were a big underdog to the No. 10-ranked Wolverines. Especially since Ron VanderKelen was throwing passes to Pat Richter the last time Wisconsin won in Ann Arbor.

That was 1962. Richter, then the UW athletic director, had eight catches for 104 yards in a 34-12 rout of the Wolverines, who went on to win 23 of the next 24 games in the series.

The Badgers snapped a nine-game losing streak to Michigan in 1993 at Camp Randall Stadium. That was one of the key wins on the road to a share of the Big Ten title and a trip to Pasadena.

Michigan coach Gary Moeller felt like his team played with little or no emotion in Madison. "We were flat and I don't know why," he said after the 13-10 loss.

And he was saying the very same things the following season after the Badgers spoiled Michigan's homecoming with a stunning 31-19 victory over the Wolverines in front of 106,209.

"This was a very important win, maybe even more so than the Rose Bowl (win over UCLA)," Alvarez said. "I told the players that a lot of people had counted us out.

"No one but the people in that locker room gave us much of a chance.  It's nice to do something no one thinks you can do. It was important for our program because it showed our character."

Touchdown Tony Simmons caught a couple of scoring passes from quarterback Darrell Bevell. Tailback Brent Moss got back in the lineup, and rushed for over 100 yards for the 17th consecutive game.  And the Badgers were clean on offense after turning it over 18 times in the previous seven games.

They also weathered a 100-yard kickoff return by Michigan's Seth Smith with some clutch playmaking on defense. Eric Unverzagt had two interceptions and the sideline hit on quarterback Todd Collins which temporarily knocked him out of the game (Collins' backup was Lloyd Carr's kid, Jason).

Unverzagt got plenty of help from his teammates, including Jeff Messenger, who had a fumble recovery and an interception; and Tarek Saleh, who had two sacks. "Wisconsin played with more intensity and emotion and that was the difference in the game," Todd Collins said.

The 1994 Badgers won four of their last five games, including a win over Duke in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa, Fla. Terrell Fletcher was named the MVP after rushing for 241 yards. "We just wanted our football team back playing the way we've played in the past," Alvarez said.

Wisconsin hasn't won often in Ann Arbor. But two of the UW's last three wins in the Big House have been a stepping stone to a Big Reward - an appearance in the Rose Bowl.
ON WISCONSIN