It’s March of 2020, and sports as we know them are on an indefinite hiatus. COVID-19, better known as the Corona-virus, has rocked the globe and halted all major events, including our beloved sports. Sports bring normalcy. They bring us together as well as provide us genuine emotion. In this moment of grand reality, we can afford to put things in perspective, while also dwell in the nostalgia of our favorite sports memories. Falling back on memories can help fill the void we are experiencing without sports. They bring back emotion, provide entertainment, and give us a break from everything going on around us. Undoubtedly each fanbase has many great memories, but this Wisconsin football memory may take the lead for Badger fans.
In the spirit of nostalgia, why not reflect on some of your favorite (or least favorite) sports memories? And that is exactly what we’re going to do here. In an effort to fill the void of no sports, why not relive some of our favorite moments we’ve had as fans!
Favorite Wisconsin Badgers Football Memory
2011 Big Ten Championship Game: #10 Wisconsin vs #17 Michigan State
To preface this, to say Wisconsinites care about Badger football is an understatement.As a matter of fact, they live and breathe is. Personally, for this team, my thoughts were (and still are) that this Wisconsin team going into this game was two Hail Mary completions away from being in the national championship game. Russell Wilson, Montee Ball, and Nick Toon engineered the most brilliant Badger offense of the modern era. The defense was the only question mark in big games.
This wasn’t just any big game. It was the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. Winner to the Rose Bowl. However, it also had a critical component for Badger fans that made it so important.
Earlier in the season Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol connected for one of the craziest game-ending touchdowns of all time. Wisconsin had climbed all the way into the top 5 in the rankings for the first time in a half-decade. Fans were dreaming big. Really big. However, after Nichol grabbed the deflection off of Jared Abbrederis’ attempted pat down on the Hail Mary, and the subsequent fight to get into the end zone, those dreams turned to dust.
After the earlier game between the two, the championship game was about as good as it gets. The touchdown machine that was Ball had two first-quarter touchdowns as Wisconsin raced to a 21-7 lead. The second quarter was the exact opposite. Badger faithful had flashbacks to that infamous October night as the Spartans went on a 22-0 run. Michigan State led 29-21 at the half.
Back and Forth Second Half
The second half was just as wild, if not more. Back and forth play. Wilson scrambling and making plays, while Cousins was torching the Badger secondary. As the game winded down, the score was 39-34 Michigan State with the lead. Two things became clear. Wisconsin needed to get one defensive stop and Wilson had to make a big play late. The defense got the stop. Wilson had the ball, fourth down inside the 50-yard line with four minutes to go. The scene was set.
One of my all-time favorite announcers, Gus Johnson, was on the call for the game. Known for his emphatic March Madness calls, I had always envisioned he’d give one of his famous calls for the Badgers.
An Ending for the Ages
I can still vividly see the play and hear the call in my head. Wilson moves left out of the pocket. A Spartan player was darting at him. Then, off of his back foot, he fired across the field. The ball was in the air for what seemed like an eternity. As if it was being thrown all the way back to Madison. Then, out of nowhere, the seldom-used Jeff Duckworth got a second of separation at the end of the play. Much to everyone’s surprise, Duckworth made the catch falling to the ground.
In sequence, Johnson and his incredible ability to explode at any moment of greatness belts,
“OHHH WHAT A CATCH!”
It’s as if he was a fan sitting right next to you.
The season was saved. The Badgers were primed to score the go-ahead touchdown, and they did just that moments later. After a couple of nail-biting minutes (and a gracious penalty on a long Keshawn Martin punt return), the Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl berth was secured. In the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, Wisconsin emerged victorious in a 42-39 thriller.
To say fans were ecstatic would be an understatement. Wisconsin was heading to the Rose Bowl, again. Each Rose Bowl experience is sweet, but this was different. It was earned in a one-game title match. The elation this game brought for many was so large that it seemed like more than just players got the trophy. It felt like the fans had a piece in it as well. This is what sports can do. It highlights, connects, and endears us to one another.
For one night, a fan base and a state were on top of the college football world.
This game is nearly a decade old. But still, it feels so close. That’s what memories provide us. Instant joy and happiness, as if it were happening in the present time. That is what this Wisconsin football memory brings to Badger fans. So if we’re going to be without sports for a little while, I ask you, why not relive some of the best moments it has brought us?