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October 16, 2010MADISON - David Gilreath set the tone for a Wisconsin team desperate to get over the Ohio State hurdle with a 97-yard kickoff on the game's opening play.
By the time it was over, ten's of thousand's of his closest friends joined him on the field in one of the biggest celebrations Camp Randall Stadium has ever seen.
The Badgers had just upended a No. 1 ranked team for the first time since 1981. It was time to celebrate.
"I know this isn't a bowl game or the national championship game but I just started crying," UW junior safety Aaron Henry said following the game. "Nobody expected us to go out there and win. We were kind of like the little redheaded stepchild.
"I wish this night could last forever, but I know it's going to be over in a few hours .I'm just going to marinate on this night and really relish this moment."
It was a moment that will surely go down in the annals of Badger football history. Offensively, the Badgers rose to the challenge of a stellar Buckeye defense. Defensively, UW did enough to slow Pryor and force him into situations he couldn't overcome.
And special teams, well, they were much better than they had been all season and actually turned in a favorable outcome for UW.
It was a complete, 60-minute game on a beautiful night in mid-October that equated to a riveting and electric Wisconsin victory.
"It really was a surreal moment," UW senior middle linebacker Culmer St. Jean said. "I couldn't imagine it, even if I wanted to, beforehand. It was unbelievable, and to beat a No.1 team, not many people can say that they did.
"So I'm proud to be a part of this."
Wisconsin got it done the way Wisconsin likes to get it done.
John Clay, who scored two touchdowns in the first half for a Wisconsin team that jumped out to a quick, and dominating 21-0 lead, rushed for 104 yards and looked better than he had all season.
In doing so, the junior tailback was well on his way to becoming the first back to rush for more than 100 yards against Ohio State in two and a half years.
"John Clay was so excited," UW head coach Bret Bielema, who saw his record against Ohio State improve to 1-3, said. "You could tell all week. He practiced as hard as I've ever seen him practice and really executed."
Though it held a 21-3 halftime edge, Wisconsin knew Ohio State was going to fight back and make a game out of it. With so much on the line for Ohio State- any hope of a national title birth hinged on a win - the Badgers knew the Buckeyes were going to fire back.
To start the second half, OSU marched on a 10-play, 77-yard touchdown drive capped by a 13-yard Dan Herron touchdown run that cut the lead to 21-10. After holding Wisconsin scoreless on the ensuing possession, Terrelle Pryor went back to work.
This time, the junior quarterback led his team on an emphatic 19-play, 94-yard scoring drive that eventually cut the Badger lead to three following a two-point conversion. All the momentum seemed to be riding in the Buckeye's favor.
But Wisconsin, like it had done all night, responded with a drive of it's own.
With its back against the wall and nightmares of past encounters with Ohio State circling throughout Camp Randall, Scott Tolzien led a 10-play, 73-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 12-yard James White score.
The drive was the biggest of the season and it helped deliver one of the biggest wins in program history.
"At halftime I went in and told the coaches and players, approach the second half the same way as if the score is 0-0," Bielema said. "But I did point out right before we left the locker room that we've been in four-quarter games this year, whether by choice or not, we've been in them, and I didn't really think Ohio State had been.
"I really wanted our guys to believe in what we were talking about. That drive in the fourth quarter when they got within three was a great example of believing."
Tolzien, who finished 13-of-16 for 152 yards with an interception, made throws in critical moments and helped move the chains throughout the ball game.
His favorite target was Nick Toon, who exposed the Buckeye defense with quick screen catches that eventually helped total 72 receiving yards for the game.
"He was huge," Bielema said. "It's great because the Nick I saw in fall camp, that's the guy you're seeing now. He's playing with some aggressive nature and really making himself a great player."
For a program that was in the national spotlight for an entire day, the result couldn't have been any better.
"We came in here prepared just like every other week," UW junior defensive end J.J. Watt, who finished with four tackles and two sacks, said. "We prepared just like every other game. When we won we weren't exactly surprised. We won, we expected to win the football game and we came in there and won.
"Obviously it's a great feeling and watching ourselves on SportsCenter tonight is going to be a great feeling."