Friday, December 13, 2002
1994 - Wisconsin 21, UCLA 16
By Dan O'Sullivan
From 1947 through 1998, the Rose Bowl's Big Ten representative usually hailed from Ann Arbor, Mich., or Columbus, Ohio. Once in a while, though, a team other than Michigan or Ohio State would sneak in. 1994's surprise entry was the Wisconsin Badgers.
Wisconsin had gone 5-6 the year before, including a heartbreaking loss to Northwestern in the last game that kept the Badgers from securing their first bowl bid in nine seasons. Darrell Bevell, Wisconsin's starting quarterback from 1992-1995, said the near-miss inspired the returning players.
About 90 or 95 of us stayed that summer to work out and really committed ourselves to having a great season," said Bevell, a native of Scottsdale, Ariz. "We believed we were a good team and capable of making it to a bowl game. Our goal was to win a bowl game; we just didn't say which one it was."
With a balanced offense and an opportunistic defense, Wisconsin cruised to a 6-0 start in 1993. Only a loss at Minnesota and a tie against Ohio State marred the rest of the regular season, and the Badgers' 9-1-1 record landed them their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1963.
"We all understood the history," Bevell said of the Badger players, "and how much a part of history we were, and how we could turn the tide for Wisconsin and win it."
Though Madison, Wis., is a couple thousand miles away, a huge contingent of Badger fans made their way to Pasadena to root on the Red and White. Come game time, it was clear that the hometown UCLA Bruins had lost their home-field advantage.
"There were jokes around the game, 'Last one out of Wisconsin, turn out the lights,' because there were that many people out there," said Bevell. "When our fans were screaming, it was loud and definitely hard for [the Bruins] to hear and do the things they needed to do."
Wisconsin gave its fans plenty to cheer about, taking a 14-3 lead into the fourth quarter. The defense, which forced six turnovers by game's end, was in control. And bruising tailback Brent Moss, Big Ten Player of the Year, was on his way to 158 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Ricky Moss' 12-yard rushing touchdown pulled the Bruins to within 14-10 before Bevell did the unexpected.
Bevell had thrown for 2,390 yards and 19 touchdowns during the season, so he was known for his passing. He was not, however, known for his running. With four receivers running toward the end zone on second-and-eight from the UCLA 21, the quarterback saw an opening and took off through traffic. Wide receiver J.C. Dawkins made a key block, and Bevell had the touchdown.
The frantic scramble gave Bevell's teammates a good laugh.
"They joke around about it 'til this day," said Bevell. "They made a couple of comments to the UCLA guys while they were running down the field: 'How could you let that guy do that?' It was a very unlikely play."
The score pushed Wisconsin's lead to 21-10. UCLA added another touchdown but the Badgers prevailed, 21-16, for their first Rose Bowl win in four tries.
Bevell played two more years, breaking nearly every Badger passing record. After unsuccessful tryouts with the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Raiders, he began a coaching career that landed him in Storrs, Conn., where he now coaches wide receivers for the University of Connecticut.