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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Top ten moments in a storied career









Wisconsin capped its improbable climb to legitimacy as a football school with a 21-16 victory over favored UCLA in the 1994 Rose Bowl. More than 70,000 Badger faithful followed the team to California to witness Darrell Bevell and Brett Moss lead the Badgers to victory. Moss, the game's MVP, piled up 158 rushing yards to go along with two first half scores, but it was Bevell who left the indelible mark on the game. With his team holding onto a 14-10 fourth quarter lead, Bevell'who was anything but fleet of foot'trudged his way 21 yards to the end zone for arguably the greatest, not to mention most unlikely, touchdown in UW football history. 




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This may be Alvarez's sweetest victory at Wisconsin because almost no one gave his team a chance. The No. 9 Badgers defeated the heavily-favored No. 6 UCLA Bruins in the Rose Bowl by a score of 38-31. UW proved a lot of critics wrong'one CBS analyst even deemed the Badgers 'the worst team ever to play in the Rose Bowl' before the game. Rose Bowl MVP Ron Dayne ran all over the UCLA defense with 27 carries for 246 yards and four touchdowns. Despite the fact that the Badger defense surrendered a Rose Bowl-record 538 yards of total offense, they were able to keep constant pressure on Bruin quarterback Cade McNown, registering three sacks against an offensive line that had yielded just 10 sacks all season. Cornerback Jamar Fletcher also returned an interception for a score in the third quarter that proved to be the decisive points in the game. 












This game could not have been more perfect for Alvarez and the Badgers. In its 41-3 trouncing of Iowa, UW racked up more than 600 yards of total offense, with 420 coming on the ground. Defensively, the Badgers stifled the Hawkeye offense, holding Iowa to 4-for-15 on third down conversions. UW running back Ron Dayne rushed for 217 yards on 27 carries to go along with one touchdown, and eclipsed Texas running back Ricky Williams' career rushing record to become the NCAA's all-time leading rusher. Dayne would finish his career with 6,397 yards on the ground. This win, coupled with the 31-27 upset by Michigan over Penn State, guaranteed the Badgers their second straight Rose Bowl appearance. After the game, Alvarez stood at Dayne's side as his No. 33 was dramatically unveiled on the second-deck fa??ade of Camp Randall. 












In a game that was supposed to be a shoot out between two of the best offenses in the nation, it was defense that told the story. The No. 4 Badgers coupled a stingy defense with a consistent running attack to outlast No. 22 Stanford 17-9 and win their second consecutive Rose Bowl and third in the Alvarez era. Dayne finished his last game as a Badger with 34 carries for 200 yards and scored just over two minutes into the second half to give the Badgers the lead for good. Quarterback Brooks Bollinger scored on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter for the final margin of victory. The UW defense suppressed one of the nation's best offenses, allowing a meager minus-5 yards on the ground, easily one of the finest performances by a defense in Alvarez's tenure at UW.  












The 1993 season was the turning point of the Alvarez Era. In back-to-back games that year, the Badgers proved they were finally ready to move out of the Big Ten cellar and go toe-to-toe with the heavyweights. First, they took down Michigan. Though it was a down year for the Wolverines, it was Wisconsin's first victory over the Maize and Blue since 1981. The game, which the Badgers won 13-10, is notorious for the postgame stampede that left 70 fans injured when the UW student section rushed the field. 




A week later, No. 3 Ohio State came to town. Still riding high from its win over Michigan, Wisconsin played well enough to beat the Buckeyes. But with the score tied and less than 15 seconds to play, Ohio State blocked walk-on kicker Rick Schnetsky's 32-yard-field goal attempt. Even with the tie, Barry and the Badgers showed everyone that Wisconsin was no longer a cupcake.  












'This is one of my most gratifying wins,' Alvarez said.  




The No. 23 Badgers faced off against No. 3 Ohio State in a rain-soaked night game. Starting quarterback Jim Sorgi was injured in the third quarter and missed the rest of the game. With the game tied 10-10, junior backup quarterback Matt Schabert, inconsistent in his previous outings, was at the helm of the offense. Star senior wide receiver Lee Evans had yet to have a catch. 




On second-and-nine on the Wisconsin 21-yard-line, Evans beat cornerback Chris Gamble who bit on his out-and-up, caught the ball on the Ohio State 45, and sprinted to the south end zone in front of the student section for the game-deciding score, ending Ohio State's 19-game winning streak. 












When Barry Alvarez arrived in Madison in 1990, he hadn't really accomplished much. Sure, he had apprenticed with two legendary coaches'Hayden Frye at Iowa and Lou Holtz at Notre Dame'but Wisconsin was his first big gig. So when he announced that fans 'better get season tickets now, because before long they won't be able to,' in his introductory press conference, you can imagine nobody took him too seriously. Besides, in the four seasons before his arrival, the Badgers were a terrible 4-45 and usually played in a half full Camp Randall. But Barry was right. This year, every single game was sold out before the season even started. 












After Wisconsin beat Stanford 14-0 on September 21, 1996, there was one name on everyone's mind'Ron Dayne. The hefty freshman halfback from New Jersey had just carried the ball 12 times for 75 yards. Not bad, considering it all came in the fourth quarter. 




After the game, Barry Alvarez said he would stick with his three-headed running attack with Carl McCullough and Aaron Stecker retaining their spots ahead of Dayne. It didn't last long, though. By season's end, both Stecker and McCullough were unseated and Dayne was atop the depth chart, and for good reason. He finished the year with 2129 yards, scored 21 touchdowns and led UW to a win over Utah in the Copper Bowl.  












10th-ranked Wisconsin was playing No. 5, and then-unbeaten Purdue in Ross-Ade Stadium and had blown their 7-0 halftime lead. 




The Badgers were down 17-14 with 2:49 left in the game, possession belonged to Purdue. Senior Boilermaker quarterback Kyle Orton ran to his right and tried to switch the ball to his left hand. Senior cornerback Scott Starks and safety Robert Brooks hit him at the perfect time, Starks low, Brooks high, and forced the fumble. What happened next is permanently etched in Badger lore: Starks picked up the loose ball and ran 40 yards for what turned out to be the game-winning TD, upsetting Purdue 20-17. 












While these yearly games against Minnesota are always charged by the intense rivalry between the two teams, this season's victory over the Gophers was one of the sweetest of the modern era of the battle for the Paul Bunyan Axe. 




With 30 seconds left in the game and the Badgers down 34-31, the situation was bleak. Minnesota was punting and it looked like all they needed to do was hold the Badgers off for less than a minute. 




But the Badgers pulled through on the most unlikely kind of play: freshman linebacker Jonathan Casillas blocked the punt after Gopher punter Justin Kucek dropped the snap, and sophomore Ben Strickland recovered the loose ball in the end zone for the decisive TD in the 38-34 Badger win. 




























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