What do you remember of the 1992 Badgers football team? Quickly… I bet you couldn't come with anything of significance unless you have a crazy memory like myself.
20 years ago this year the Badgers football team finished 5-6, yet it deserves to be recognized as one of the most important football teams since the beginning of the Alvarez era.
So why are we celebrating a losing season? Simply put that team built the blocks needed for Wisconsin to become the program it is today and laid the foundation for the Badgers' first rose bowl in 31 years.
Hey, news flash – Wisconsin football didn't begin with, nor end with Barry Alvarez. A few signs adorning Camp Randall will tell you that and if you're a Badger fan you should know that. However, with the hiring of Barry Alvarez the Badger program has begun an era that is unquestionably the most successful since the very, VERY, early days of the program.
Many look back to the 1993 team that won the Badgers' first Big Ten championship since 1962 as the most important team in recent history and they very well may be right. However, do some quick research and in retrospect you could see that team and that season coming thanks to that 5-6 team from the 1992 season.
The 1992 Badgers football team is at least equal in importance and I say, without the 1992 season's results the 1993 Big Ten championship doesn't happen.
1992 came on the heels of a 1-10 season in 1990 and a 5-6 campaign in 1991. So, why is the 1992 team different from the year before? Well, it's in the anatomy of the record.
The 1992 Wisconsin team featured Darrell Bevell in his first season as a starting QB, Brent Moss as their running back, Lee DeRamus in his 2nd season as a starting WR, and an offensive line with the likes of Joe Panos, Cory Raymer, Mike Verstegen, and 1993 draft pick Chuck Belin on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively the likes of Mike Thompson, Lamark Shackelford, Gary Casper, and Jeff Messenger dotted the roster.
The vast majority of these players would become the keys behind Wisconsin's run to the Rose Bowl a year later and the experience gained in the 1992 season laid the foundation for the individual progression as well as the team's progression.
As for the results of the season, the Badgers upset 12th ranked Ohio State at home and began a winning streak in the Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe (it was their 2nd straight win in the series).
With the benefit of hindsight those two victories inside of conference play should've been huge indicators that this team was on the upswing, rather than being an anomaly like it was thought of at the time.
In fact, you can point directly to the date of October 3rd, 1992 as the date that Badgers football began to arrive under Alvarez. That is the date of Wisconsin's 20-16 victory over the Buckeyes of Ohio State. It proved the Badgers weren't just a team beating up on other teams at the bottom of the league, but that they were ready and able to compete with the biggest and baddest teams the conference had to offer.
Let's not forget that this was still the time that it was Michigan & Ohio State – and then everyone else in the Big Ten.
The 1992 season may not have been a resounding success all the way around, but make no mistake it's as important as nearly any in the Barry Alvarez era. Without that season Wisconsin doesn't take that next step to the 1994 Rose Bowl following a 10-1-1 season in 1993.
It's time that this team gets the credit it deserves in building what we all enjoy today.