October 16 and 17, 2009 was Homecoming Weekend here at UW-Madison. Not only did the Badger football team play Iowa, but the men's hockey team also kicked off their season with a home series against WCHA rival Colorado College. This is the second year in a row where Homecoming Weekend featured both hockey and football games and as a lifelong Badger fan, I can say there is nothing better.
Homecoming Weekend kicked off with the Badgers taking on the Colorado College Tigers in their first game of the year. You could just feel the excitement the second you stepped foot in the Kohl Center. College hockey is largely ignored as a mainstream sport, but you certainly wouldn't think that if Badger hockey games are any indication. Wisconsin takes their hockey seriously and Badger hockey games are one of the most popular sporting events in the state. The Badgers and Tigers are warming a few minutes before the start of the game in this image. Man, did we have good seats.
Wisconsin, coming off a season in which they didn't make the NCAA Tournament, opened 2009 hoping to get off to a good start. However, they were playing Colorado College, one of the top teams in the WCHA and a team in which the Badgers have struggled against. However, the Badgers had about 12,000 people on their side Friday night, with a packed student section and all but the upper tier full in the 17,000 seat Kohl Center. Here, the Badgers starting lineup is introduced to the tune of Metallica's "Enter Sandman."
As was the case multiple times last year, the Badgers came out strong, but faded towards the end of the game. Behind Blake Geoffrion and Andy Bombach goals, the Badgers opened up a 2-0 lead midway through the second period. However, Colorado College stifled Wisconsin's offense the rest of the game and Tigers scored three goals, scoring the winning goal with two minutes left in the third period, to spoil the Badgers' season opener. The Badgers and Tigers skated to a 1-1 tie in Saturday's game.
The only disadvantage of Homecoming weekend is that the football game is always at 11:00 a.m. That means you have to get up around 7:30 if you want to get a decent amount of tailgating in before kickoff. Not only is this early, but is also about 30 degrees on Saturday morning. Here is the view of Camp Randall from the back porch of my house.
Saturday's game against Iowa was the first game this season in which Wisconsin fans were forced to wear sweatshirts and pants. With the first four home games of the year occurring in September, fans only need shorts and a t-shirt. Not Saturday. However, the weather could have been much worse. It was sunny and in the low 50s, but earlier in the week Madison experienced rain and temperatures in the low 40s. Here you can see fans, mostly students, entering Camp Randall.
Wisconsin fans are some of the most passionate in the country. For the most part, we know our football and support the Badgers with all our hearts. However, the one criticism I have about Badger fans, specifically students, is their inability to get to the game on time. With students too busy partying, a significant portion of the student section is empty until halftime, when students finally meander their way into the stadium. Personally, I think this is a waste of a ticket and I would guess most of the players are a little disappointed when they take the field and a third of the student section is empty. Here is a view of an empty portion of the student section.
As for the game...well, it could have gone better. The Badgers opened up a 10-0 lead behind a Phillip Welch field goal and Montee Ball's first career touchdown. However, the Hawkeyes stormed back, scoring 20 unanswered points and shutting down the Badger offense. Although the game was a disappointment, it was still a great Homecoming in Madison. Neither the hockey or the football team played their best, but Homecoming weekend is still a great time, no matter the outcome of the games.