Week 12 - Ohio State at Wisconsin

Trip Start Sep 01, 2012
Trip End Nov 26, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Wisconsin
Saturday, November 17, 2012

Taking in a game at Camp Randall Stadium is a must for any college football fan, and a big-time game ups the ante.  Jason's cousin Michelle and her family live six blocks from Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, so it wasn't a matter of whether or not to go to a Wisconsin game, it was a matter of which game.  When picking the games, it seemed quite possible that both Ohio State and Wisconsin could be undefeated at this point in the season.  That held true for the Buckeyes, but the Badgers had a few slips along the way and entered the game 7-3.

This game promised to be pretty interesting.  Michelle and Vincent's neighbor Dan called 24 hours before kickoff offering 5 tickets in his suite.  We had never been to a football game in a suite before, so of course we said, yes.  Andrew, Janell's childhood friend and an Ohio State grad, also joined us for the game.  The main bonus to sitting in the suite was that we gained an additional ticket, which enabled Janell to attend the game, too, while Michelle's sons Sam and Louis watched the boys.  There are several other pluses to sitting in a suite; there is isolation from cold, rain, and snow, it is infinitely more comfortable than being squeezed in bleachers, there are TVs for replays, and food and beer is served all game.  In case you didn't catch that, in the suite, beer is served at the game!  It was a great experience!  The downside is that we felt a bit isolated from the action and didn't really get the full game atmosphere, which is the whole reason to go to the stadium instead of watching at home or a bar where there is also an enclosure, comfortable seats, replays, food, and beer.

Although some of the ratings are a bit skewed due to the fact that we were in a suite instead of in the stands, here we go.

 - The site for Camp Randall Stadium was formerly used for the Wisconsin State Fair grounds prior to becoming Camp Randall, a major military training facility for the Civil War.  The original Camp Randall Stadium was built on the present site in 1913, but the wooden bleachers collapsed in a tragic accident in 1915.  A new stadium with concrete bleachers seating 10,000 was completed in 1917.  After several renovations over the years, today's stadium seats just over 80,000 after the most recent construction completed in 2005.  It is a very handsome structure in the center of the Wisconsin Athletic Complex, and at 80,000 is one of the larger stadiums on the tour.  The suite we were in was very nice, but we really don't have a basis for comparison.  It was a bit difficult to find, though.  Andrew and Jason wandered around for awhile and finally decided to look for an usher.  We walked through a tunnel and found ourselves right behind the Ohio State bench!  Rating - 8 of 10.  

Tailgating - Tailgating at Wisconsin is fairly non-existent as far as we could tell, even though it was a nice sunny day in the mid-50's and it was an afternoon game.  There are no large parking lots anywhere near the stadium.  There are a lot of bars in the area, though, and they were all packed to the gills.  Most of the pre-game activities took place in people's yards or on their front porch.  Our porchgating was at Michelle and Vincent's house with several of the neighbors and some friends.  When I was getting advice from some former Wisconsin students about what to do in Madison, one mentioned going to State Street Brats before heading to the stadium.  What I thought he meant was to go get a brat and then head to the tailgate.  Nope.  I now think he meant go get a brat, drink several beers, and then head to the game.  We did head to Badger Bash at the Memorial Union to watch the band put on a pre-game concert.  Beer and food were available there, and other than a few squished beer gardens, I think this was the main tailgating option.  While we personally had a good time, the tailgating as a whole is lacking.  Rating - 4 of 10. 

The Game - Ohio State entered the game sitting on top of the Big 10 Leaders Division with a perfect 10-0 record. However they are nowhere to be found in the BCS polls due to NCAA sanctions that make them ineligible for post season play.  There is still a potential that they could play spoiler and end up #1 in the final AP poll, but the BCS is out of reach for the Buckeyes this year.  Wisconsin already had a lock on the Big 10 Leaders Division crown even though they entered the game in 3rd place thanks to sanctions against Ohio State and 2nd place Penn State.  The biggest things at stake for Wisconsin were the opportunity to prove that they belong at the table in the Big 10 title game and Monte Ball's quest to break the NCAA major college career touchdown record in his final home game.

There wasn't a lot of offense in the stat sheet, but it was a very entertaining game.  Ohio State opened the scoring with Corey "Philly" Brown's 68-yard punt return for a touchdown with just under two minutes left in the 1st quarter.  Ohio State added another touchdown before Monte Ball added one for Wisconsin the middle of the second quarter to tie Travis Prentice's NCAA career record with 78 touchdowns.  There was no more scoring for more than two quarters until Wisconsin tied the score 14-14 on a 5-yard TD pass with only 8 seconds remaining on the clock!  Overtime!  Free football!  Ohio State scored a TD on their first overtime possession, but Wisconsin failed to match it.  Ohio State rolled out of Madison with an undefeated record, ready to put it on the line in their annual showdown with Michigan (and their de-facto bowl game this year).  Rating - 9 of 10. 

The Band - Most of the bands we've seen on this trip have a fancy moniker for themselves.  Wisconsin's band is simply called "The University of Wisconsin Marching Band."  They don't need a catchy name to be memorable.  This is one of the hardest working band I've ever seen play live.  The members of this band have a long day.  They started out at the Badger Bash at the Memorial Union at 1:15.  After marching in and playing for about 45 minutes, they headed off to the stadium for pre-game.  After the game, they put on yet another show called the 5th Quarter, and several thousand fans stayed after the game to watch.  On top of that, they have the most difficult style of marching I've ever seen.  It's sort of a delayed high step, and it would be very difficult to keep that going all day and have everybody stay in step, but they did it.  They also had a fantastic sound that filled the stadium and brought in the crowd.

There are many college marching bands that do the big things well.  They make complicated formations and move them down the field.  They play with dynamics and fill the stadium with sound.  They play the entire game and keep the crown engaged.  There are very few bands that do the little things well.  Sharp turns, crisp horn movements, and cohesiveness are what make a band stand out.  Everybody needs to strive for flawless execution both in marching and playing.  Everybody needs to move their feet in the exact same manner, bring their instruments up at exactly the same time, and play their instruments the entire time, even when the formations are difficult.  Everybody needs to be totally committed to excellence. That is Wisconsin.  This was the easiest band of the year to rate.  Rating - 10 of 10.

One interesting thing about the band is that they opened a band Hall of Fame in September, 2012.  We didn't know about it until we looked up the website for what the band was called, or we certainly would have visited while on campus.  

Fans - This was a really tough one to rate due to a lack of input.  There wasn't really much tailgating, so it's hard to include that aspect of fans' behavior into the rating.  We were in a suite instead of in the stands, so we really didn't get a feel for what and how the fans were yelling towards the field.  We can say this, though.  Andrew was wearing an Ohio State hat, and I didn't hear one negative thing shouted our way or toward any other Ohio State fans all day.  And, when Ohio State had the ball in some crucial moments of the game, that stadium got loud.  Very loud.  Just like it should.  The group we were with in the suite was fantastic!  Rating - 8 of 10.

Best Player - This is a tough one.  Ohio State's offense was fairly ineffective, as the Wisconsin defense held them to only 236 total yards on the day.  A case could be made for Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde with 87 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner.  However, his performance was eclipsed by Wisconsin running back Monte Ball, who ran for 191 yards and a touchdown.  He would have gotten the player of the game, and potentially a Wisconsin victory, had he not fumbled on 4th and 1 at the OSU 2-yard line.  This game belonged to the defenses, and the most impact was made by Ohio State defensive end John Simon.  He finished the day with six tackles and four quarterback sacks.  He also batted down the 3rd-down pass that led to the punt return touchdown in the 1st quarter.

Overall - This was a fantastic game, and it was the first overtime game of the trip!  The marching band was amazing, and deserves mention.  We had a very unique experience by sitting in a stadium suite, and we would definitely like to thank Dan for including us.  A big thank you also goes out to Sam and Louis for keeping Austin and Owen entertained while we enjoyed the game and to Vincent and Michelle for being fabulous hosts!  Rating - 9 of 10.
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