The 2000 Rose Bowl was a culmination of one of the most-celebrated careers in UW sports history, and what better way to go out than with a win in back-to-back years over “superior” Pac-10 opponents.
A year after beating UCLA 38-31 in the same game, Wisconsin returned to Pasadena to take on Stanford, and while the Cardinal gave the Badgers a different look, UW prevailed with a hard-fought 17-9 victory.
The Badgers’ stifling defense held Stanford to a meager -5 yards on 27 carries, a record low in the Rose Bowl. Ron Dayne capped off his Heisman season with yet another 200-yard rushing performance, solidifying himself as one of the most dominant college running backs of all time.
But perhaps most importantly, the 2000 Rose Bowl set a new precedent for Wisconsin football. The Barry Alvarez-led Badgers would consequently be known for having a huge, tough defense and an even bigger offensive line. Wisconsin football started off the decade with a win the way Wisconsin football always did, with a huge running attack and remarkable defense.
Since then, Wisconsin has strived to reach the level of play it displayed against Stanford in that Rose Bowl. John Clay and Scott Tolzien are nice, but if you forget their future NFL careers, they don’t really compare to Brooks Bollinger and Dayne and the show they put on every week.
But even when the clock ticked down to zero on Jan. 1, 2000, the Badgers knew the win was extra special. Not only because it set a new standard by which UW football would be judged but also because it was the first time in the history of the Rose Bowl that a Big Ten team had won back-to-back games.
It was also nice to give a little smack to ESPN analyst Craig James, who claimed the Badgers were “the worst team to ever play in the Rose Bowl.” Even though that statement came a year earlier, UW’s victory made a statement that Wisconsin football is something to be reckoned with. In the following nine years, Alvarez — and now Bret Bielema — have yet to return to that level.
Now the question remains: Will the next decade be one to remember for UW football or one to forget? We shall wait impatiently and see.