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Sept. 12, 1981: No. 1 Michigan vs. Wisconsin
UW coach Dave McClain, a former Bo Schembechler assistant at Miami (Ohio), looked for any psychological edge that he could gain to motivate his players for the season-opener against his mentor.
McClain needed something since the Wolverines had outscored the Badgers, 176-0, in the four previous meetings, although the 1980 game was competitive, a 24-0 loss.
On Thursday, the UW marching band showed up and played "On Wisconsin" while the Badgers were practicing at Camp Randall Stadium. That same day, McClain tried to make a statement on behalf of his team with this message on the scoreboard: Wisconsin 17, Michigan 14.
On game day, McClain tacked another message on the bulletin board in the locker room. Mike Jolly, a safety on the 1977 Michigan team, had some inflammatory things to say about sensing fear in an opponent like Wisconsin.
Jolly was quoted as saying some players used to stand on the sidelines and bet on how many points the Wolverines would score on the Badgers. Those quotes were on the board. "That was an insult,'' said UW offensive guard Leo Joyce.
McClain never let up, either.
Nov. 10, 1962: No. 1 Northwestern vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
Tom Myers vs. Ron VanderKelen.
Paul Flatley vs. Pat Richter.
how it was being marketed: quarterback vs. quarterback, receiver vs.
receiver. Northwestern's Myers and Flatley vs. Wisconsin's VanderKelen
In passing offense, Myers was No. 1 in the Big Ten.
VanderKelen was No. 2. In total offense, VanderKelen was No. 1. Myers
was No. 2. You get the idea.
In receiving, Flatley was No. 1 in the conference. Richter was No. 2.
question you'd hear most often was, 'Who was going to be able to shut
off the receivers?''' said Richter who would usher in another era of
winning after becoming the school's athletic director. "And we'd say,
'Okay, if they had Myers and Flatley, we felt Vandy and myself could
match up with them. We had a cadre of guys. And we felt pretty good
about our running backs.''
Richter listed Louie Holland, Gary
Kroner, Ralph Kurek and Jim Purnell. "That's where you see the real
value of a balanced attack and what it can do for you,'' Richter
Compared to the '42 game against No. 1 Ohio State,
which created a national buzz, this game was barely a regional
curiosity. It was not even televised. "But when you play No. 1, you
don't want to be embarrassed. I know they were touted and we weren't,''
Oct. 31, 1942: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Wisconsin
On Friday night (Halloween, no less), some 9,000 Badger fans attended a 40-minute "We Can't Lose'' pep rally on the lower campus. It was definitely a ''feel-good'' event.
But it later turned ugly after some 5,000 rioted in the downtown area. Thirty-two were arrested for disorderly conduct, and destruction of property. Tear gas was used to disperse the mob.
It was worthy of an ESPN scroll at the bottom of the screen and a Dr. Lou commentary.
Back then, the equivalent of ESPN's GameDay crew was NBC's Bill Stern who would handle the radio play-by-play, which was to be carried by 184 stations in the United States.
In addition, the game was to be short-waved to 11 South American stations, two in England, two in Ireland, two in Alaska, one in Hawaii and one in Australia.
The Paul Brown-coached Buckeyes got 80 first-place votes in the Associated Press poll.
The Harry Stuhldreher-coached Badgers got one first-place vote.
Stuhldreher, the player, was immortalized as one of the Four Horseman of Notre Dame by Hall of Fame sportswriter Grantland Rice. Stuhldreher was the quarterback, Don Miller and Jim Crowley were the halfbacks and Elmer Layden was the fullback. All were outlined against a blue-gray October sky.
Stuhldreher, the coach, was overshadowed by Paul Brown, the legend. Both hailed from the football hotbed of Massillon, Ohio. But they were not known to exchange X-Mas cards.
That was one storyline. There were others, including the hype surrounding the fullbacks: Wisconsin's Pat Harder and Ohio State's Gene Fekete. There was even more hoopla for the halfbacks: the UW had Elroy Hirsch and Mark Hoskins and OSU had Paul Sarringhaus and Leslie Horvath.
Hoskins made up one half of Lancaster's "Touchdown Twins. '' The other half was Dave Schreiner, who was designated as the team captain for Ohio State.
The Badgers were confident, not cocky. And the game played out that way as they grabbed a 10-0 first half lead and parlayed their confidence and momentum into a memorable 17-7 win.
The Badgers held Fekete to 65 yards and Sarringhaus to 55, while Harder rushed for 97 and Hirsch picked up 118. At the end of the game, the aforementioned Stern was given the "bird'' by the cheering section just below the broadcasting booth. Stern had picked Ohio State to win.
The Badgers would go on to lose the following Saturday at Iowa. The Buckeyes would go on to run the table and win the national championship. They would also go on to labeling their loss at Camp Randall as the "Bad Water Game.''
Brown blamed an outbreak of dysentery on his team to the drinking water in Madison. Others believed the Buckeyes were exposed to contaminated water or foods somewhere on their train ride from Columbus, which included an overnight stop in Janesville.
Ohio State's Jim Tressel can be thankful for small favors.
The last time it happened, the indefatigable Charles Woodson was more effective as a "quarterback'' than a defensive back or a wide receiver or a kick return specialist.
Yes, that Charles Woodson, the indispensable playmaker of the Green Bay Packers secondary and the former Heisman Trophy winner from Michigan.
The last time it happened, a Griese was the quarterback and not merely a color analyst (though that's where you will find Brian Griese today doing college football, just like his old man, Bob Griese).
The last time it happened was 1997. That was the last time the Badgers played a No. 1 ranked team at Camp Randall Stadium.
For the record, there are three occasions in Badger football history when Wisconsin beat the top-ranked team in the nation. In 1942, the Badgers bumped off Ohio State 17-7. That is the season Terry Frei covers in the superb book he wrote a few years ago, Third Down and a War to Go
In 1962, the eighth-ranked Badgers of Pat Richter and Ron Vander Kelen fame hammered Northwestern 37-6. That Wisconsin squad eventually rose to No. 2 in the polls before the epic Rose Bowl game against USC.
Finally, in the 1981 season-opener, Dave McClain's Badgers made magic by shocking Michigan 21-14.
Badger fans old enough to remember those games cherish the moments, as well they should. Who wouldn't want to be part of that atmosphere? Just ask South Carolina fans, who witnessed the Gamecocks defeat previously top-rated Alabama last Saturday.
The Badgers are 16th in this week's coaches' poll, but as they head into this Saturday's showdown with No. 1 Ohio State, fans and media types continue to be unsure about this group. A popular belief is that Wisconsin is overrated. An elite team would find a way to win at Michigan State, and it would not need a blocked PAT to get past Arizona State.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that this team is good, but not elite. I also mentioned that we can all check back in a few weeks to learn whether Wisconsin can be such a squad. That time is approaching.
A year ago, Wisconsin statistically dominated Ohio State in first downs (22 to 8), in passing yards (250 to 87), in total offense (368 to 184) and in time of possession (42:47 to 17:13).
But the Buckeyes still beat the Badgers, 31-13, in Columbus.
"Looking back, I see those two 'pick-sixes' as being big game-changers,'' UW senior quarterback Scott Tolzien said of Kurt Coleman's 89-yard interception return and Jermale Hines' 32-yard return for touchdowns. The Buckeyes also had a 96-yard kickoff return for a score.
Tolzien, who was sacked six times, believes the Badgers can learn from that experience when the No. 1-ranked Buckeyes show up here Saturday night.
"Every one in this program,'' Tolzien said, "dreams of those opportunities of knocking off a team like that. But we have to put in the work the next five days and have a great week of preparation.''
A year ago, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor completed just 5-of-13 passes for 87 yards against Wisconsin. But he has finally matured as a passer.
Last Saturday, Pryor was nursing a quardriceps injury and didn't attempt a single run against Indiana. But he completed 24 of 30 passes for a career-high 334 yards and three touchdowns.
"Should be a great test of where our football team is at,'' UW defensive end J.J. Watt said.
Quarterback Scott Tolzien and wide receiver Nick Toon have been "looking" to get on the same page of the playbook since the season opener when Toon came down with turf toe. Toon was subsequently on the sidelines for three games before returning for the Big Ten opener.
Going into Saturday's matchup against Minnesota, there were certain looks that Tolzien and Toon anticipated getting from the defense. Whenever the Badgers went "Twins" - splitting Toon and wide receiver Isaac Anderson to one side of the formation - Tolzien had some automatics, or options.
Especially when the Gophers were playing ''soft" on the corner. That separation occurs when the defensive back is lining up off the ball by five or more yards and giving a cushion to the receiver.
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.
When someone competes with as much passion and energy as UW linebacker Chris Borland, the 2009 Freshman of the Year in the Big Ten, you can imagine how challenging it would be for Borland to separate himself from the competition as a spectator.
That was the case last Saturday when Borland, who was anything but detached emotionally from his Badger teammates in East Lansing, Mich., was relegated to watching the Wisconsin-Michigan State game on television in his off-campus Madison apartment.
"It was difficult," said Borland, who has been lost for the season with a shoulder injury. "I had a hard time watching the very end of the game because we were about to lose. I've never really watched a game as intensely as I watched that game and I've been a football fan forever. It was tough."
It's Homecoming Week in Madison, and what better opponent to play than Minnesota? Here comes the annual Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe, an item that has been in the Badgers' trophy case for the last six years.
One word of caution to those who simply assume the prize will stay in town for another season -- never underestimate the power of a rivalry.
While the Badgers are eager to prove they are better than what they showed last Saturday in East Lansing, the Gophers are smarting in a big way after losing four straight home games, including a gut-wrenching setback to Northwestern at TCF Bank Stadium.
Having already lost to South Dakota, USC and Northern Illinois, the assumption, dangerous as it might be, is that the Gophs will just punch out between now and Thanksgiving weekend. A rivalry such as this suggests otherwise.