Big Ten: House of Pain
I say the house of pain is in effect
You know the house of pain is in effect y'all
And anyone that steps up is gettin' wrecked
And, with those poetic lines from Everlast, we enter the Big Ten's House of Pain. All week at ESPN.com, we're exploring the most-painful losses in a team's history. What constitutes pain? First, the game has to be significant. A rough loss in a going-nowhere year doesn't sting as much as one that prevented a team from reaching its ultimate goals.
Painful losses often happen against rivals. Painful losses often have especially painful endings. Painful losses often take place at the worst possible times. Although blowout defeats certainly can qualify as painful, losses that culminate with crunch-time turnovers, field goal makes or misses or generally bizarre plays usually stick out more.
The most important criteria: painful losses linger for you, the fans.
Trust me, this wasn't easy, and I know many of you will disagree with the choices. But I only got to pick one game for each Big Ten team. A special thanks to the Big Ten sports information staffs for helping me with the project.
Here goes ...
Date: Nov. 3, 1990
Site: Memorial Stadium (Champaign, Ill.)
Final score: Iowa 54, Illinois 28
After winning a Citrus Bowl championship the previous January, Illinois entered the 1990 season with raised expectations. The Illini lost the opener but won their next six, rising to No. 5 in the national rankings. They had big dreams, but rival Iowa changed everything by crushing them in front of their own fans at Memorial Stadium. John Mackovic's team had no answer for Iowa's Nick Bell, who rushed for 168 yards. After allowing one touchdown in its opponents' previous 49 possessions, Illinois watched Iowa reach the end zone on its first five drives. Illinois' 2000 loss to Michigan deserves honorable mention.
Date: Nov. 7, 1988
Site: Memorial Stadium (Champaign, Ill.)
Final score: Illinois 21, Indiana 20
Indiana went to Champaign ranked No. 20 nationally and boasting a 4-1 mark in Big Ten play after a win against Iowa. The Hoosiers seemingly had the game in hand, up 20-9 with less than four minutes remaining. But Illinois quarterback Jeff George, an Indianapolis native who attended Indiana's archrival Purdue before transferring, led the comeback and fired a touchdown pass with 21 seconds left. Illinois' drive came after Indiana quarterback Dave Schnell fumbled on a bootleg. The loss took Indiana out of the race for the Big Ten championship. Indiana's most painful moment came against Anthony Carter and Michigan in 1979.
Date: Jan. 1, 1986
Site: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)
Final Score: UCLA 45, Iowa 28
Iowa felt the pain both for what happened during the game and what happened soon afterward. Maxwell Award winner Chuck Long led the fourth-ranked Hawkeyes into Pasadena, but he was sacked four times by the Bruins. Tailback Ronnie Harmon had a miserable day, fumbling four times after doing so just once all season and dropping a wide-open touchdown pass. Some believed Harmon threw the game. An Iowa win could have led to a national championship after No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Miami both lost in their bowl games.
Date: Nov. 24, 1973
Opponent: Ohio State
Site: Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Final score: Ohio State 10, Michigan 10
Michigan has had its share of painful losses -- Appalachian State, Ohio State in 2006, Colorado in 1994 -- but this tie with the hated Buckeyes really stung the Maize and Blue. The game featured its share of pain, as Michigan rallied from a 10-0 deficit to tie things up, but missed two field goals in the closing moments. The controversy really started afterward, as Big Ten athletic directors voted that Ohio State should play in the Rose Bowl ahead of Michigan. The Big Ten's no-repeat rule had been scrapped just two years earlier. Michigan coach Bo Schembechler called the decision "an embarrassment to the Big Ten Conference" and stewed about it until his death in 2006.
Date: Jan. 1, 1966
Site: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)
Final score: UCLA 14, Michigan State 12
The Spartans came to Pasadena undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country. UCLA jumped ahead as the Spartans coughed up the ball four times in the first half. Still, Michigan State had a chance and outgained UCLA 314-212 in the game. The Spartans rallied and scored with less than a minute left, setting up a potential tying two-point conversion attempt. But fullback Bob Apisa was stopped short of the goal line by UCLA's Bob Stiles, who knocked himself out making the tackle. Alabama was awarded the AP national title. Michigan State's 2006 loss to Notre Dame and 1966 tie against the Irish deserve honorable mention.
Date: Oct. 10, 2003
Site: Metrodome (Minneapolis)
Final score: Michigan 38, Minnesota 35
Minnesota was 6-0 and entered the Little Brown Jug rivalry ranked No. 17 nationally. Led by tailbacks Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney, Minnesota led 28-7 after three quarters and 35-21 with 11:11 left. But Michigan couldn't be stopped in the fourth quarter and scored 31 points in the final 15 minutes, capped by Garrett Rivas' field goal with 47 seconds left. Minnesota rushed for 424 yards but still felt short. The Gophers arguably have never been the same. No Big Ten team has more painful losses than Minny.
Date: Nov. 11, 2000
Site: Kinnick Stadium
Final score: Iowa 27, Northwestern 17
Northwestern has seen huge leads evaporate (Michigan State in 2006), suffered shocking early losses (Miami University in 1995) and come very close to ending its bowl drought the past two seasons. But Rose Bowl opportunities don't come around too often for the Wildcats, and they squandered one by falling to Iowa. A week after an unforgettable win against Michigan and ranked No. 12 nationally, Northwestern was totally outplayed by a Hawkeyes team that went 3-9. On a day when Purdue opened a path to Pasadena with a loss to Michigan State, the Wildcats stumbled on the doorstep.
Date: Nov. 22, 1969
Site: Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Final score: Michigan 24, Ohio State 12
The Buckeyes brought one of their greatest teams ever to "that state up North" to face a Michigan team regaining respectability under first-year coach Bo Schembechler. Although Michigan played at home and carried a four-game win streak into The Game, Ohio State was a 17-point favorite. The Buckeyes scored a quick touchdown but never really recovered, as a Michigan team inspired by Schembechler and a 50-14 loss the year before shut down Rex Kern and Co. Ohio State committed seven turnovers and suffered one of the biggest upsets in college football history. It also spawned the Ten-Year War between Schembechler and Woody Hayes. Ohio State's 1998 loss to Michigan State merits honorable mention.
Date: Nov. 6, 1999
Site: Beaver Stadium (State College, Pa.)
Final score: Minnesota 24, Penn State 23
Undefeated Penn State looked every bit like a national championship team, rising to No. 2 in the polls behind freakish defenders like LaVar Arrington and Courtney Brown. The Nittany Lions held a two-point advantage when Joe Paterno decided to punt rather than attempt a long field goal try in the closing minutes, trusting his dominant defense. Minnesota began the game's decisive drive with a Hail Mary pass from Billy Cockerham to Ron Johnson. Moments later, the Gophers converted a fourth-and-16 to set up the game-winning field goal by freshman kicker Dan Nystrom. Penn State lost its final two regular-season games. The Lions' 1979 Sugar Bowl loss to Alabama and their 2005 loss to Michigan gain honorable mention.
Date: Oct. 16, 2004
Site: Ross-Ade Stadium (West Lafayette, Ind.)
Final score: Wisconsin 20, Purdue 17
Purdue's program hasn't been the same since The Fumble. The Boilers came in 5-0 and ranked fifth nationally, while quarterback Kyle Orton had established himself as the Heisman Trophy front-runner. Purdue led 17-7 with eight minutes left and had a three-point advantage and the ball with 2:49 remaining. On third-and-3, Orton scrambled and made a lunge for the first down, only to have the ball knocked loose. Wisconsin's Scott Starks scooped it up and raced 40 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 2:36 left. Purdue lost its next three games and backslid to the Sun Bowl, where it fell to Arizona State.
Date: Oct. 23, 1993
Site: Metrodome (Minneapolis)
Final score: Minnesota 28, Wisconsin 21
Wisconsin might have celebrated a national championship had it found a way to beat the rival Golden Gophers. The Badgers were 6-0 heading to the Metrodome but fell behind 21-0 to a Minnesota team that went 4-7 that fall. Wisconsin closed to within 21-14 and reached the Minnesota 8-yard line before Brent Moss was stuffed on fourth-and-1. The Badgers went on to share a Big Ten championship and reach the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1963, but they were so close to winning it all. Honorable mentions include 1999 against Cincinnati, 1998 against Michigan and 2005 against Iowa in Barry Alvarez's final game.
No, it's not a retrospective on these guys. Sadly.
If you're a college football fan, you know the pain of defeat. But certain losses sting more than others. They could come in rivalry games, in games with league title and national title implications and in games filled with bizarre moments.
We're counting down the 50 most painful losses in college football history. You can already check out Nos. 50-31. The only Big Ten presence so far comes at No. 39, and it doesn't really count because Penn State was an independent when it rallied to stun Kansas 15-14 in 1969. Trust me, you'll see much more from the Big Ten in the top 30.
Colleague Pat Forde has more on the agony of defeat, and Ivan Maisel explores the degrees of pain that these games bring. Maisel runs down some painful days in college football history, including Oct. 15, 2005.
At Michigan, the Wolverines upset No. 10 Penn State 27-25 when Chad Henne completed a 10-yard pass to Mario Manningham on the final play of the game. That one play made life easier for USC, Texas and a lot of poll voters. Penn State finished the regular season 10-1. The undefeated Trojans played the Longhorns in the Rose Bowl for the BCS championship, unaccompanied by controversy.
Also check Forde and Ivan Maisel sharing some of their memories of painful losses.
Want to weigh in on your team's most painful loss among friends? Join other Big Ten mourners here and don't forget to send me your suggestions as well.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
When you call Dave Doeren's cell phone, you don't hear any tones before the Wisconsin defensive coordinator picks up. Instead, the unmistakable sound of House of Pain's "Jump Around" screeches through the receiver. Anyone who has ever been in Camp Randall Stadium between the third and fourth quarters of Badgers games knows why.
"The recruits like that," Doeren said.
Doeren doesn't come off as much of a rap fan, but he wants his defenders to follow Everlast's words after they spent too much of 2007 in their seats.
After the Outback Bowl, coach Bret Bielema dismissed veteran coordinator Mike Hankwitz and promoted the energetic, intense Doeren to get the defense back to its 2006 form, when Wisconsin ranked second nationally in points allowed. The Badgers boast experience along the defensive line and at linebacker, and they return the Big Ten's interceptions leader in safety Shane Carter. But health has been a concern throughout the offseason, with linebacker Jonathan Casillas the latest to go down (ankle). Defending the spread offense also will be a focus for the Badgers after struggling against athletic quarterbacks like Illinois' Juice Williams and Minnesota's Adam Weber.
After writing about Doeren this spring, I caught up with him earlier this week and discussed his outlook for the Badgers defense in 2008.
You had the chance to get acclimated with the guys in the spring as the coordinator. How have they responded to you in preseason camp?
Dave Doeren: It's coming together. The guys are really working hard. You're starting to see that chemistry, stuff we missed in the spring due to all those injuries, so it's fun to start seeing those guys bonding and being out there together and working together and having the progress where some of our better players are actually out there and making plays again.
Do they have a better awareness of the expectations you have?
DD: They definitely understand. There's always a learning curve when you're trying to figure out what a guy wants from you, so they're on the same page as me from that standpoint most of the time, not always, but a lot better than where we were.
I've heard you don't hide your emotions too much. You're pretty easy to read.
DD: That's a big thing. I want those guys to feel like they can tell me what's going on, and by the same token, I'm always going to be up front and honest with them so that we're always on the same page with everything.
The guys have been pretty honest about not meeting expectations last season as a defense. Is that easier for you to come in and coach when they've already acknowledged that they want to do better?
DD: Two years ago, we were very, very good here on defense and a lot of guys took for granted that it would happen again. And it was a tough lesson to learn, so I'm walking into a situation obviously where the guys are hungry because they went through a tough stretch early on before we started getting better defensively as the year went on last year.
Would you say the leadership is in a better place now? Jonathan [Casillas], it seemed like he was a little bit ahead of his time last year as a captain.
DD: I think so, and those guys understand that the lack of it last year hurt 'em. There's a lot of experience. Last year, we had one returning starter on the defensive line, and there was only one senior in there. And then you've got Chappy [Jason Chapman], you're looking at [Mike] Newkirk, you're looking at [Matt] Shaughnessy, [Kirk] DeCremer's got experience, [O'Brien] Schofield's got experience. And then at linebacker, there's five guys with starting experience. So there's a lot more comfort within those guys as far as saying stuff to their teammates now that they've proven they can play.
Have you seen any examples of that leadership that have stood out in camp?
DD: At practice, you'll see guys coaching other guys all the time. Last year, I don't know if we were unsure of it or just not working the same way or what. You'll see a kid make a mistake, and half the time, before you can correct him as a coach, those older players are jumping on him and talking to him and helping him. That's great when those guys are doing that kind of stuff.