5 Great Plays in Badger Sports History

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Action shot of Badger basketball player, Bronson Koenig, passing the ball during a game.

Bronson Koenig launches a buzzer-beater to send the Badgers to the Sweet 16 in the 2016 NCAA tournament. AP IMAGES/Richard Ulreich

On the run: The Badgers returned to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 31 years on New Year’s Day 1994, and left with a 21–16 victory over UCLA. The key was a 21-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run by slow-footed quarterback Darrell Bevell ’96. What started as a pass play became a scramble as UCLA defenders blanketed UW receivers. Bevell ran left, picking up a block and making his own slick move. “There was a guy there and I somehow made him fall down,” Bevell said. “I was laughing, the players were laughing at me, a television guy walks by and he’s laughing. … It was the most amazing play.”

Halfcourt heaven: Facing the Magic Johnson–led Michigan State basketball team on March 3, 1979, Badger Wes Matthews x’81 delivered the Spartans a stunning defeat — their last en route to an NCAA title. Matthews took an inbound pass with seconds left, dribbled to halfcourt unchallenged, and heaved the winning shot with a second to play, as the UW won, 83–81. Matthews told the Sporting News years later that he expected a Spartans press, which never materialized. “There was nobody there,” he said. “I thought, ‘They’re going to sit back and watch this? Okay.’ The basketball gods were on my side.”

Happy return: The college football world’s attention was glued to sold-out Camp Randall Stadium on October 16, 2010, as the Badgers faced top-ranked Ohio State under the lights. An already electric atmosphere erupted as the UW’s David Gilreath x’13 took the opening kickoff 97 yards — untouched — for a touchdown that triggered the Badgers’ 31–18 upset victory. Gilreath took the kick, slashed through a seam on the left side, and left defenders in the dust as the crowd roared. Gilreath later said he didn’t hear the roar. “I just remember thinking, ‘Whatever you do, don’t get caught.’ ”

Redemption: After painful years as a football laughingstock, Wisconsin captured respect in a hard-hitting game against fourth-ranked Nebraska in 1974 under coach John Jardine. The Badgers hung with Nebraska and with less than 4 minutes left, UW quarterback Gregg Bohlig ’75 rolled right from his own 23-yard line and fired a pass to flanker Jeff Mack ’76, just beyond the reach of a Cornhusker defender. Mack gathered in the pass and streaked untouched for a 77-yard touchdown, tying Nebraska 20–20. Vince Lamia ’78’s extra point sealed the victory. ABC commentator Duffy Daugherty raved, “This’ll go down in Badger history as one of the great plays.”

Sweet shot: Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig ’17 propelled the Badgers to the Sweet 16 of the 2016 NCAA tournament with some cold-blooded shooting against Xavier. With 11.7 seconds to play in St. Louis, Koenig sank a three-pointer to tie the game at 63–63. Then the UW’s Zak Showalter ’17 took a charge with 4.3 seconds to play and the Badgers regained the ball. After a timeout, Koenig took the inbound pass, wheeled to the deep right corner and popped in the game-winning three-pointer as time expired and teammates mobbed him. “I just tried to channel my inner Steph Curry,” Koenig said, referring to the NBA great.

Published in the Winter 2017 issue

Tags: Badger, basketball, football, sports

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