With live sports absent for the time being, sports fans worldwide have been isolated at home with what feels like nothing to watch. While students are at home sleeping, doing homework and mindlessly scrolling through Tik Tok, I devised a list of some of the most rewatchable moments in the University of Wisconsin’s sports history Badgers can watch to kill some time.
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1. The 1999 Rose Bowl Game: Led by the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher and 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, the Badgers went 11-1, including wins over Iowa, Minnesota and Penn State while only losing to Michigan. Entering the Rose Bowl as big underdogs against the No. 6 UCLA Bruins, the No. 9 ranked Badgers knew their best hope of coming out victorious was to run their offense through Dayne.
In the first half alone, Dayne scored three times, including a 54-yard touchdown run at the end of the first quarter. The Badgers entered halftime leading 24–21. The second half picked up right where the first half ended, continuing the high scoring affair. In the game, neither defense had a true answer for the other. Dayne had a career day rushing the ball while the UCLA offense totaled 538 yards to break the Rose Bowl record, which has since been broken again.
Dayne scored again in the third quarter, tying a Rose Bowl record for most scores in a game and finished with 246 yards, earning himself the Rose Bowl MVP award as the Badgers went on to beat the Bruins 38–31. This marked the Badgers second-ever Rose Bowl win and their first since 1994. About 21 years later, the Badgers are 3-7 all-time in Rose Bowl games and are primed to make another run at it in the coming fall.
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2. Bronson Koenig’s March Madness Buzzer Beater: March 20, 2016, the men’s basketball team was matched up against the Xavier University Musketeers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. After failing to win a game in the Big Ten Tournament, Wisconsin entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 7 seed, facing off against the No. 10 seed, Pittsburgh. Future Badger hero Bronson Koenig struggled in both the Big Ten Tournament and the first round of the NCAA Tournament as he failed to make a 3-pointer in either game.
After beating the Panthers in a low-scoring 47–43 game, the Badgers advanced to the Round of 32 to play the No. 2 seeded Musketeers. In a faster-paced game, the Badgers saw themselves hanging tough with the Musketeers, only down three at halftime.
With 31.2 seconds left on the clock, the Badgers found themselves down 63–60, in need of a big shot. After inbounding the ball and running through an offensive set, Koenig decided to take matters into his own hands and launched a deep 3-pointer with 14 seconds on the clock, finding the bottom of the net and tying the game as the arena erupted. After a crucial stop and timeout, Wisconsin had the chance to win the game on an inbound pass with two seconds left on the clock. Curling around a series of screens, Happ fired a pass to Koenig in the corner, who set his feet and fired up a shot as he fell into the Wisconsin bench.
As the entire crowd stopped and watched as the ball flew through the air and into the hoop, mixed emotions filled the arena. Tears of joy from Wisconsin fans and tears of heartbreak from Xavier fans. Finding his stride once again, Koenig shot 6-for-12 from deep, totaling 20 points and seven rebounds. Ethan Happ was also dominant, scoring 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting and collecting seven rebounds.
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3. Russell Wilson’s 2011 Season: While the obvious answer for most memorable and rewatchable Wisconsin sports moment in the recent past would be the 2015 men’s basketball Final Four run including an all-time great moment beating the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats, I have already seen that game on TV twice since returning home from school and wanted to put the spotlight on a more forgotten season — the 2011 Big Ten Champion football team.
This roster was loaded with NFL level talent, including Russell Wilson, Montee Ball, James White, Melvin Gordon, Travis Frederick, Chris Borland, Jared Abbrederis, Nick Toon and more. Finishing the season as the No. 14 ranked team with an 11-3 record after losing to the Oregon Ducks in a shootout, the Badgers had big wins over Penn State and Nebraska before going on to sneak by Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
With a running back core of four NFL-level players, standout back Ball finished fourth in the country for Heisman votes after finishing the year with 1,923 yards on 307 carries and 33 touchdowns. To put Ball’s season into perspective, this season, Jonathan Taylor finished with 2,003 yards on 320 carries and 21 touchdowns. Ball had 12 more touchdowns on 13 fewer carries and had 80 less rushing yards. Meanwhile, James White carried the ball 141 times for 713 yards rushing. The closest a player got to Taylor’s rushing yards in 2019 was Nakia Watson with 331 yards on 74 attempts.
Of course, Ball and White didn’t do this all by themselves. They were running behind an offensive line that combined was worth $34.4 million in the NFL heading into the 2017 season. The many pro players on this team make it a fun one to watch old highlights of and see just how dominant their Big Ten Championship run was.
As the chaos of COVID-19 continues to grow and suspend professional sports, it’s important to remain inside and isolated, enjoying Badger highlights from a distance. Stay safe!