They were chanting "Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl" in Madison's Camp Randall Stadium Saturday after Wisconsin defeated Ohio State. It was the Badgers' first victory over the Buckeyes since 1959.
But Dave McClain, the Wisconsin football coach and clearly a man with a sense of history, apparently did not want to hear such talk. "It was a tremendous victory for a great group of young men," he said. "But I think any bowl talk is premature."
After all, this is the University of Wisconsin, the same school that hasn't sent a team to Pasadena since 1962, the same school that has had three winning seasons in the last 20 years, the same school that hasn't beaten Ohio State in Columbus since 1918.
And, oh yes, the same school that went zero for 1967 and 1968, when I was an undergraduate and the sports editor of The Daily Cardinal, the school newspaper.
You think it's tough following the Redskins these days? It's nothing compared to those bizarre days of the late 1960s, when Wisconsin led the nation in parties per weekend, antiwar demonstrations and football follies.
Oh, the games always drew big crowds, but the fans truly had their priorities in order. Vendors went through the stands yelling "get your ice cold mix," and if liquid refreshment wasn't your cup of bourbon, a few deep breaths were all that was necessary to get high in the student section.
The best action of the 1967 season probably took place in the press box. The young woman who helped cover the football team for The Cardinal decided to bring her knitting to the game one Saturday, a move that infuriated the school's sports publicist, who threatened to throw her out.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the young lady continued to purl the day away, while the Badgers unraveled down below.
The coaches and the youngsters from The Cardinal did not always get along, particularly after we noticed that a certain Badger quarterback had a rather dangerous habit of licking his fingers just before taking the center snap every time Wisconsin threw a pass. Every other team noticed, too, and the poor fellow was getting mugged every week.
We wrote the story, of course, and the quarterback stayed dry the rest of the season. Not that it mattered much. He still got smeared every week, and the Badgers didn't win a game.
But they did come close, in the seventh game of the 1967 season. Wisconsin was 0-5-1 at that point, and traveling to Indiana for a game against a Hoosier team that eventually went on to the Rose Bowl.
The Badgers battled that day, and on the last play of first half, a Wisconsin lineman actually intercepted a pass with an open field to the goal line. Typically, the big fellow tripped over his own two feet deep in Hoosier territory, with no Indiana player within 10 yards.
But the worst was yet to come.
Late in the game, Mel Reddick, a Wisconsin receiver, caught an apparent touchdown pass. Well, almost. Actually, the ball was thrown a bit high, and Reddick leaped to catch it. He had the ball in his hands, but as he came down for his landing, flipping backward in midair, somehow his foot knocked the football out of his hands before he hit the ground.
Wisconsin lost, 14-9.
Later, in the locker room, Coach John Coatta was close to tears as he met with the writers. And then, he could take it no longer.
"Tell 'em, Len, tell 'em," he turned to me, the faithful student correspondent. "Every week, the same thing. Tell 'em."
I told 'em, but it didn't help. The Badgers went on to lose the last three games that season, all 10 games in 1968 and the first three in 1969 before ending that odious 23-game winless streak with a 23-17 victory over Iowa.
I had left Madison by then, but like any loyal alumnus, I have followed their misfortunes ever since. It hasn't been easy. I've grown to despise the Saturday afternoon scoreboard show. Some people read obituaries. I read Wisconsin game stories on Sunday.
I've lost so many lunches to my Ohio State friend I've stopped counting, even if American Express hasn't.
It began a month ago, when the Badgers beat Michigan, then No. 1-ranked, for the first time since 1962, in the season opener. Since then they've won four out of five and -- heaven forbid -- lead the Big Ten and actually are ranked in the top 20.
Still, I haven't made hotel reservations in Pasadena yet. Four of the last six games are on the road, and I still remember the 1977 season, when the Badgers won their first five, then lost the last six, including a 56-0 defeat by Michigan and a 42-0 loss to Ohio State.
I'm particularly concerned about the Northwestern game Oct. 31. I know, I know, Northwestern has lost 25 straight, and is arguably the worst team in America. But just like Dave McClain, I've got a sense of history, too.