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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, May 18, 2024
Rose Bowl flyover

A season of triumphant highs and devastating lows saw the Wisconsin Badgers fall just short in the Rose Bowl, losing to Oregon 45-38.

Game column: For all the heartbreakers, a truly special season

PASADENA, Calif.—For a season as successful as the one Wisconsin enjoyed, it is ironic that some of the most indelible memories of the year came in loses.

As much as a team that boasts a Heisman trophy finalist, a victory in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game and a trip to the Rose Bowl can, this group of Badgers seemed to traffic in heartbreak. There were no shortage of highs, but taken individually the lows were lower.

To match the elation of dominating Nebraska on national television in a raucous Camp Randall Stadium, there was the gutting loss in East Lansing on Michigan State's hail Mary. The thrill of redemption over the Spartans in the Big Ten title game was followed by the hollowness Badger fans must have felt when they heard a referee say Russell Wilson hadn't spiked the ball in time, and they watched another team celebrate on the Pasadena grass.

This was a great season for Wisconsin football and Wisconsin fans, but as great as it was it always proved more than willing to tear your heart out.

Peter Konz must have felt that sting more than most people. The center who could be back next season if he doesn't choose the pros, was the one with his hand on the ball at the 25-yard line, waiting to give it back to Wilson on the final play of the game, when the referee whistled and the clock started.

"We fought to the last second," Konz said, "that's all we needed, just one more second."

"I truly felt there was enough time on the clock," Konz said. So while the officials reviewed the play he was telling his teammates to get back in the huddle. They were going to score. "Time ran out, and it kind of brings you back to those last-minute losses."

But step back from that second and that last minute. Step back from the questions of whether or not Wilson spiked the ball in time, or if head coach Bret Bielema should have used the Badgers' second timeout so early, or if there was something Wisconsin could have done to stop the Oregon offense.

Look at this season as a whole, through all of its highs and all of its lows and how far the Badgers came during it, and you'll come to the easy conclusion that this was a great year. It took Wisconsin into the national spotlight and back onto the Heisman trophy stage; to a first-of-its-kind game in Indianapolis and a 98th-of-its-kind game in Pasadena.

You can't see the San Gabriel mountains from the Rose Bowl any more. They were there for most of the game, looming large and ready to remind you that what you were watching was a special game being played in a special place, and that getting to play there meant something special had happened to two schools. But now that it's over, and the sun has set and the stands are all but empty, they don't seem to be there. Look north from the stadium and you'll see a few trees and a few lights on the hillside, but in the darkness the view doesn't seem so special.

Those mountains are still there, though, and so is the Pacific to the south and west. When thousands of Badger fans wake up tomorrow morning they will still be in this stunning landscape; they will still have those mountains to look at and that ocean to wade into, and this is a time when salt water can soothe open wounds.

"This is a beautiful state," Konz said. "I still love the Rose Bowl."

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Wisconsin fans will wake up tomorrow and marvel at where they are, and know that they are only there because of what their team accomplished this season. They'll know the heartbreak was worth it.


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