How times have changed. It will be 13 years ago Tuesday that the Wisconsin Badgers and Stanford Cardinal played against each other in the Rose Bowl. Back then it was presented by AT&T and not Vizio. Back then the BCS was just beginning and hadn’t yet faced the scrutiny it currently does. Back then the Pac-12 was still the Pac-10 and the Big Ten only had 11 teams. Back then the Cardinal got in as a surprise, almost Cinderella story while the Badgers were a power looking for a second straight top-five finish. How times have changed.
I was a child nearing puberty at the time and it was a big deal anytime the Badgers were in a bowl game on New Year’s Day. By 2000, it had almost become normalized that the Badgers would be playing on January 1. An appearance in the Rose Bowl for the Badgers made things even more special at my house on the first day of the year.
January 1, 1994 was a three-person party with my brother, my mom, and myself having our eyes glued to our T.V. while watching the Badgers in a bowl game that seemed impossible to get to just a few years before. Then on the first day of 1999, Ron Dayne lead the Badgers to an upset Rose Bowl win over the UCLA Bruins. This win established the Badgers as a recurring power in the Big Ten. The fact that the Badgers only lost once in the ’99 season, that Dayne broke the NCAA rushing yards record, and that Dayne won the Heisman Trophy came as no surprise to almost everyone in the state of Wisconsin. Well, the fact that the Badgers lost once that season may have come as a surprise to many.
The Badgers came into the 2000 Rose Bowl game with only one loss and were looking to be the first Big Ten team to repeat in Pasadena ever. The Cardinal came in looking to make a statement that their football program was back on the rise. The Cardinal entered the game with an 8-3 record and were barely inside the top-25.
It shouldn’t need to be noted, but due to the small amount of black head coaches in college football, it should be noted that the coach of the Cardinal in both the 2000 (Tyrone Willingham) and 2013 (David Shaw) Rose Bowls will be black. On the other side, and in a weird bit of irony, the coach of the Badgers in both of these Rose Bowl games will be the same man: Barry Alvarez.
The most surprising part of this game to me was that the Cardinal played close with the Badgers for almost the entire game. Evidence of this is the fact that the Cardinal lead the game 9-3 at halftime in what was a very defensive game. All of that was the opposite of what I was expecting; Dayne was a monster in college and all expectations were that he would run over the Cardinal defense while the Cardinal didn’t have much of anything that appeared to be a secret weapon or something they could exploit to their advantage. But they found a way.
It turned out that rushing was the key in this game, as it will likely end up being in this season’s Rose Bowl. The Cardinal rushed for minus five yards as a team while Dayne rushed for 200 yards. The Cardinal passing attack died down in the second half and the Badgers took over the game when that happened on their way to a 17-9 win. This allowed the three of us at home to breath a sigh of relief as for more than 30 minutes, a major upset seemed possible.
If you’ve caught on that much of this seems familiar and has been illustrated as being familiar, good. The point of this article was not only to flashback to a time when I was a child, but to point out that football can have instances (mainly in the post-season) where history repeats itself, even if it repeats itself with more than a decade in between. Such is the case with this year’s Rose Bowl that not only has many factors that are familiar to the 2000 game, but many that are almost exactly the same. Such is football and the weird ways that history can repeat itself in this sport. If you want a clearer example of this, look at the New York Giants‘ run through last year’s NFL playoffs and compare it to their Super Bowl run in the 2007 season.