Battle with Brees a memorable one
MADISON – Nearly two decades later, the numbers still appear to be the product of a video game rather than a Big Ten game.
“It was a big game,” said Ross Kolodziej, Wisconsin’s head strength and conditioning coach for football. “Drew Brees … you had all the makings of an epic college football game.”
Kolodziej was a junior defensive lineman when UW hosted Purdue on Oct. 10, 1998.
With UW (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) preparing to host Purdue (3-2, 1-1) on Saturday, Kolodziej and some of his teammates took a few minutes to look back on the ’98 battle.
He still recalls UW prevailing, 31-24, despite Brees completing 55 of 83 passes for 494 yards and the Boilermakers winning the yardage battle, 570-229.
“It was just a long night of frustrating football because your opportunity to make an impact is minimized,” said Kolodziej, noting Brees used short drops and quick passes to avoid getting sacked. “You’ve just got to get your hands up. And they were just slinging it. It was ridiculous.
“Obviously you respected Drew and what they were about, but at the same time it was like, ‘Just line up and let’s play football.’ ”
Brees completed passes to 10 receivers, but the bulk went to Randall Lane (18 catches, 178 yards) and Chris Daniels (14-131-2 TDs).
Brees wasn’t sacked once.
UW quarterback Mike Samuel, by contrast, completed 5 of 10 passes for 44 yards. He was sacked five times.
So how did UW prevail?
Samuel rushed 20 times for 58 yards and two touchdowns, Ron Dayne rushed 33 times for 127 yards and a touchdown and UW intercepted four passes.
The biggest theft belonged to cornerback Jamar Fletcher, who returned the interception 52 yards for a touchdown with 1 minute 10 seconds left in the third quarter to break a 17-17 tie.
A few minutes later, “Jump Around” made its debut and the stadium was shaking.
“We had a beyond phenomenal defense that, one, got us out of a lot of games and, two, got us ahead so we could be comfortable in a lot of games,” said Bill Ferrario, a redshirt junior guard in 1998. “That year … we were a good O-Line. But we used to sit on the bench and joke around that someone is going to pick one off and run it back for six at some point.
“That was our mentality. Sure enough in that game, (Fletch) picked it off and ran it back for a touchdown. You take that one play out of the game and it might have been a totally different outcome.”
Dayne added a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:38 left and UW withstood a touchdown in the final minute.
UW deputy athletic director Chris McIntosh was a redshirt junior left tackle on the ’98 team.
Asked what it would have been like to passblock for 83 attempts, McIntosh laughed. Thenhead coach Barry Alvarez would never have allowed such a game plan.
“That would be the best indication that we’ve officially entered the twilight zone if that had taken place here,” McIntosh said.
“I can’t relate at all. It is so counter to our strategy, our philosophy.”
John Favret and Wisconsin's defense withstood 83 pass attempts by Purdue’s Drew Brees to win, 31-24, in a game played Oct. 10, 1998, at Camp Randall Stadium.