It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
With less than a minute and a half left in the game senior safety Joey Boese stood on the sidelines thinking his team was about to do the one thing his senior class has failed to do in their Wisconsin careers — beat Michigan.
“You’re sitting there with a minute, I don’t know, 40 (seconds) left, and you’re sitting on the sidelines going, ‘We did it, you know. We did it,” Boese said.
But with a missed field goal and a turnover on the punt return, all dreams of the senior class leaving Camp Randall for the last time with a victory over the Wolverines were dashed.
“I don’t know. When things aren’t meant to be I guess they’re not meant to be,” Boese said of failing to beat Michigan for the fourth consecutive year. “But today it was really tough to swallow, and I will definitely remember this for the rest of my life.”
In a day that was supposed to be memorable for the seniors because it marked the end of their football careers in front of their home crowd, it will instead be remembered as a painful day.
“It hurt,” senior defensive lineman Wendell Bryant said of losing his final game at Camp Randall. “To look up there and see the last time you get to look up at all those faces, all the people that love you and you love back. It hurt.”
But Bryant was hurting not only for himself, but also for Mark Anelli, Boese, Nick Davis, Mark Downing, Mike Echols, Nick Greisen, Ben Herbert, Chad Kuhns, Delante McGrew, Jason Schick, Chuck Smith and Bryson Thompson — the 12 players that Bryant has called classmates for the last four years.
“I just wish I could have brought the seniors out, helped them, my brothers, the people that I love. Help them go out the way they should have gone out,” Bryant said.
What ruined the seniors’ farewell was a plethora of mistakes by a young special teams unit. Punter R.J.
Morse had two punts blocked, placekicker Mark Neuser missed a go-ahead field goal late in the fourth quarter, and freshman Brett Bell had a punt bounce off of him, turning the ball over to Michigan in the final seconds of the game.
Following the game the underclassmen knew the effects their mistakes had on the senior class.
“I really wanted to win this for the seniors,” Morse said. “I feel like I let them down.”
Also owning up to his actions was Bell, whose turnover on the punt return set up Michigan’s game-winning field goal.
“Hopefully [the seniors] won’t put all the blame on me,” Bell said. “They’re some of the best seniors I’ve ever had the privilege to play under. I’m sorry.”
Saturday’s loss not only took a much-desired victory over the Wolverines away from the senior class, but it also ended their tenures at UW early, for the loss to Michigan dashed all hopes of a bowl bid. For a class that won two Rose Bowls and the Sun Bowl last year, there will be no postseason play this season.
And more than that, there was no reason for the seniors to celebrate after the game as the classes before them had.
“This is probably one of the hardest losses I’ve been part of,” Anelli said. “I mean, senior day, to pass up seeing seniors walk off victorious and come back out there and dance in the Fifth Quarter. To fight so hard, offensive and defensive, they played so well, to come off with a loss like that, I’m speechless.”