From Badger Herald Wiki
The Wisconsin Badgers football team is the college football program representing the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Badgers compete in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivison. Wisconsin is a member of the Big Ten Conference and plays its home games in Camp Randall Stadium.
The Wisconsin varsity football program's first season was 1889, where the Badgers went 0-2. In the 1890 season, the Badgers played their first game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, losing 63-0. The game also marked the beginning of the most oft-played rivalry in FBS history. From then on, UW posted winning seasons every year until 1910. In 1896, Wisconsin joined the Western Conference, the first incarnation of what would become the Big Ten. Along with the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, Northwestern University and Purdue University, Wisconsin was a founding member.
In 1952, Wisconsin earned its first No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll and took on the University of Southern California in the Rose Bowl, losing 7-0 to the Trojans. Led by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Alan "The Horse" Ameche, the Badgers enjoyed a strong start to the '50s, culminating with Ameche's win of the Heisman in 1954.
Wisconsin would find itself in the Rose Bowl again after the 1962 season, with a No. 2 ranking and a Big Ten title. The Badgers went down early 21-7 to USC and faced a 42-14 deficit. Quarterback Ron Vander Kelen led UW on a furious charge, scoring 23 fourth-quarter points, but the Badgers would fall 42-37. The 1962 season would mark the high point for the program for over 40 years.
Dark Times: The 1970s-80s
To end the 1960s, Wisconsin would endure an 0-22-1 streak between 1967-1969. The Badgers went just 42-50-5 in the 1970s, posting just two winning seasons during the decade. Things didn't improve in the 1980s, where the only remarkable achievement was a 21-14 upset of No. 1 Michigan in 1981.
The Alvarez Years
Between 1962 and 1990, Wisconsin went through six head coaches. Barry Alvarez was named head coach beginning with the 1990 season and went 1-10 in his inaugural season. He went 5-6 the next two seasons before breaking through in 1993.
The 1993 season began with a six-game winning streak that snuck the Badgers into the polls at No. 24 by week three. Ranked 15th heading into its border battle with Minnesota, Wisconsin endured its only loss of the season, a 28-21 loss. From there on, the Badgers went 3-0-1, to finish 9-1-1 and claim a share of their first Big Ten title since 1962. Wisconsin finished with an identical record with co-champion Ohio State, who the Badgers tied. Due to the tiebreaker rule at the time, the team with the longest Rose Bowl drought got the invitation. UW accepted the invite and faced the University of California-Los Angeles Bruins in the 1994 Rose Bowl. Behind the play of quarterback Darrell Bevell and running back Brent Moss, the Badgers defeated the Bruins 21-16 to claim its first Rose Bowl win in four tries.
While Wisconsin would not repeat as Big Ten champions the following season, the Badgers went 8-3-1 in 1994, finishing the season with a Hall of Fame Bowl win over Duke. UW slipped to a 4-5-1 season in 1995 before posting 8-5 marks in 1996 and 1997, beating Utah in the 1996 Copper Bowl and losing to Georgia in the 1998 Outback Bowl.
Ron Dayne and History
Prior to the 1996 season, Alvarez recruited a 270-pound tailback named Ron Dayne from New Jersey. Known more for his discus and shot put prowess, Alvarez enticed Dayne to come to Wisconsin by promising he would be played at tailback, rather than fullback, as his size would have suggested. Early in the season, Dayne was named starting tailback and finished the season with a UW freshman record 2,109 rushing yards. Behind a massive and talented UW offensive line, Dayne would become the face of Wisconsin football for his four years as a Badger.
Behind Dayne, Wisconsin went 10-1 in 1998, its only loss coming to Michigan. The Badgers finished tied with the Buckeyes and Wolverines, all who had 7-1 conference marks at season's end. Michigan was eliminated due to two non-conference losses and since Ohio State was in the 1997 Rose Bowl, Wisconsin earned the bid to Pasadena. ESPN's Craig James infamously called the Badgers "the worst team to ever play in the Rose Bowl." In another matchup with the UCLA Bruins, Wisconsin won a 38-31 shootout, with Dayne running for a record four touchdowns, earning Rose Bowl MVP honors. Prior to the game, UCLA was expected to win easily, as the Bruins had national title hopes until losing a postponed game to Miami, eliminating them from the BCS title game.
With hopes high following the Rose Bowl win, Wisconsin stumbled to a disappointing 2-2 start, losing to Cincinnati and Michigan. The Badgers would win the rest of their games to finish 9-2 in the regular season and with a 7-1 conference mark, were sole Big Ten champions. Notably, in the season finale against Iowa, Wisconsin not only clinched its Big Ten title, but saw Dayne set the NCAA career rushing record at 6,397. Dayne also became Wisconsin's second Heisman Trophy winner. With a second consecutive Rose Bowl appearance, the Badgers were set to face the Stanford Cardinal in the 2000 Rose Bowl.
UW and Stanford came in touting high-powered offenses, but it was a defensive struggle, as Wisconsin emerged a 17-9 victor. Dayne had 34 carries for 200 yards and a touchdown, upon being named Rose Bowl MVP for the second time. To this day, Dayne is one of just four players to accomplish the feat. Wisconsin also became the first Big Ten team to win back-to-back Rose Bowls.
End of the Alvarez Era
Wisconsin was unable to parlay its success any further, going 9-4 in 2000 and 5-7 in 2001. In 2004, Alvarez guided the Badgers to a 9-0 record, before losses to Michigan State and Iowa ended any dreams of an undefeated season. UW settled for another loss to Georgia in the Outback Bowl.
2005 would be Alvarez's final season as head coach. Wisconsin went 10-3, including a 24-10 win over Auburn in the Capital One Bowl to send Alvarez out a winner. Defensive coordinator Bret Bielema was hand-picked to be Alvarez's successor.
The Bielema Era: 2006-present
Bielema inherited a talented group of players and enjoyed a honeymoon season, going 11-1 in the regular season. Wisconsin finished with a 7-1 conference record, losing only to Michigan. Despite the success of the Badgers, the fact they didn't play the Buckeyes that season hurt the perception of the team and due to a rule stating only two teams from a conference could play in BCS bowls any given season, UW was the odd man out. Ohio State was No. 1 in the polls and up until a close loss to the Buckeyes, Michigan was No. 2. The Buckeyes went to the National Title game, while the Wolverines went to the Rose Bowl, leaving the Badgers with another Capital One Bowl appearance. Wisconsin beat Arkansas 17-14, completing the program's first 12-win season.
2007 began with high expectations, but losses to Illinois, Penn State and Ohio State left Wisconsin with a 9-3 record. UW went to the Outback Bowl and lost to Tennessee, 21-17.
2008 was expected to be a bounce-back year for Wisconsin, but turned into a disaster as soon as Big Ten play began. Up 19-0 at Michigan, the Badgers looked to earn their first win at Michigan Stadium since 1994. Instead, UW allowed an record comeback, losing 27-25. The Badgers would go on to lose to Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Iowa, with the low point coming in an overtime win against Cal Poly at home, where the opposing kicker missed two extra points, allowing UW to squeak by the FCS squad. UW would finish 7-6 after a 42-13 beatdown at the hands of Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
With Bielema on the hot seat, the 2009 season began as a make-or-break year for the fourth-year head coach. Wisconsin handled its schedule for the most part, losing games to Ohio State and Iowa, and faltering in Evanston against Northwestern. Still, the Badgers finished with a 9-3 record and accepted another bid to the Champs Sports Bowl, this time against the University of Miami. The higher-ranked Hurricanes were favored, as the idea that the teams of the ACC and SEC conference were too fast for teams in the Big Ten seemed to influence pundits. However, Wisconsin dominated Miami behind the play of defensive end O'Brien Schofield and running back John Clay, who was named the game MVP.
While Bielema finally had a signature win, he still had a lot to prove as the 2010 season began. For the first time since the 2006 season, Wisconsin returned a starting quarterback, this time in fifth-year senior Scott Tolzien. All in all, UW returned 10 of 11 starters on offense, losing only tight end Garrett Graham. The expectations were again that Wisconsin could contend for a Big Ten title. However, Bielema had yet to beat a ranked Big Ten team on the road and still needed a signature conference win.
After an uninspiring 4-0 start to the season against UNLV, San Jose State, Arizona State and FCS team Austin Peay, UW looked like it would get the chance to exorcise its conference road demons against Michigan State. The Spartans upset the Badgers 34-24 in East Lansing though, and both UW's offense and defense looked far from championship caliber. Wisconsin rebounded by winning Paul Bunyan's Axe in the annual rivalry game against Minnesota and faced the hardest part of its schedule: back-to-back games against Ohio State and Iowa.
OSU came to Madison ranked No. 1 in the nation and the atmosphere was electric for a night game that followed the filming of ESPN's College GameDay show. Despite Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel's 4-3 mark against Wisconsin (his worst record versus any conference opponent), Bielema had yet to post a win against OSU in three tries. Senior David Gilreath returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and Wisconsin proceeded to dominate Ohio State in the first half, en route to an eventual 31-18 win. However, a trip to Iowa City loomed large, as no college football team had ever beaten a top-10 opponent one week and then won against a ranked opponent on the road the following week. But with a gutsy fourth-quarter drive that included clutch throws from Tolzien, a fake punt for a first down and a movie-quality run by running back Montee Ball, UW hung on for a 31-30 win.
Following a bye week, Wisconsin rallied in the second half against Purdue, then proceeded to beat Indiana by scoring a modern-era UW record 83 points on the Hoosiers. The Badgers had no trouble dispatching Michigan, for Wisconsin's first win at the Big House since 1994, in a 48-28 victory. Thanks to Iowa's 37-6 demolishing of Michigan State earlier in the season, Wisconsin entered the final week of the season tied for first place with the Spartans and Buckeyes. Both OSU and MSU won their early games in the season's final weekend, putting the pressure on UW to beat Northwestern. Wisconsin dispatched NU 70-23, earning a share of its first Big Ten title since 1999 and due to tiebreaker, likely a spot in the Rose Bowl.