It was perfect.
The underdog had the No. 1 team in the nation at home, a place where those rankings haven’t mattered much. It was time to make a statement, to let the rest of the country know Wisconsin was for real.
Mission accomplished – twice.
As soon as the 2010 football schedule was released, Oct. 16 was circled and starred. The Buckeyes – who everyone loves to hate, and who the Badgers have played pretty evenly over the past decade – were coming to Camp Randall. It was a night game, and ESPN’s College GameDay was in town. Something special had to happen against the top-ranked team, right?
And following a conference play-opening loss to Michigan State that made the Badgers look doomed for disappointment, the OSU game loomed larger than ever. Jim Tressel’s squad looked like it might steamroll UW. Bret Bielema’s boys had Rose Bowl aspirations that would hinge on an upset of OSU.
David Gilreath finally returned a kickoff for a touchdown – the opening kickoff, nonetheless – and Madison erupted. Fifty-nine minutes of play later, the Badgers were mobbed by a deluge of ecstatic fans celebrating a 31-18 win over the Buckeyes.
Season saved, statement made.
And like any good tale, there was the opportunity for a sequel. But would it play out like “The Godfather, Part II” or “Blues Brothers 2000”?
When Ohio State’s basketball team regained the No. 1 ranking just in time for a trip to the Kohl Center, Herald Sports appropriately ran the headline, “We’ve heard this story before.”
Down by 15 points early in the second half, it looked like that $100 for the game ticket had gone to waste. UW couldn’t score and OSU was running – practically sprinting – away with a huge road win.
But then Jordan Taylor woke up and showed America why he is one of the nation’s top point guards. With 13:21 to play, he keyed one of the greatest Wisconsin comebacks, overcoming a 15-point second-half deficit for just the sixth time in UW history. Taylor scored 18 points in that last 13-and-a-half minutes, playing a direct part in 34 of UW’s final 39 points.
Taylor finished with 27 points, making the game final, UW 71, OSU 67.
Again, No. 1 Ohio State came to Madison. And again, the Buckeyes could only trudge off the playing surface as Badger fans stormed out of the stands to celebrate.
How often does a team get the chance to beat the No. 1 team at home in a season, let alone twice? And how many teams capitalize on both opportunities? Both were great moments, and both complemented each other; neither was as impressive unless the other was considered.
So yes, Wisconsin taking down No. 1 Ohio State at home is the top moment of the 2010-2011 year. As for which particular win, that’s up to you.