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Soon after his fumble Bakken made amends by intercepting a pass from Easterbrook at the Wisconsin 47. With Hackbart running for substantial gains from Bruhn's slot-T formation, Wisconsin marched—and bogged down at the Illinois 14. On fourth down, with five yards to go for a first down, chunky Karl Holzwarth trotted in to try a field goal for Wisconsin. Or so everyone supposed. Hackbart knelt to receive the ball. Instead of placing it for Holzwarth's toe, he stood up, wheeled and raced to his right. Hit at the five, he fumbled the ball forward into the end zone, where End Henry Derleth providentially swooped down to cover it and score the Badgers' only touchdown of the day. Hackbart's running try for a two-point conversion failed.
There cannot be many things in football more dispiriting than missing out on an almost certain touchdown and seeing the enemy fumble to achieve one of its own. Illinois continued its explorations in the realm of futility and left the field at half time still behind 2-6. Then the news came of Michigan State's 15-10 upset of Northwestern, giving the Badgers a clear shot at the Rose Bowl, and the Wisconsin students' section erupted in a frenzy of pompon and balloon waving.
"On, Wisconsin!" pleaded the fans as the second half began; on marched the gallant, if bewildered, Illinois team. Early in the third quarter the Illini spurted all the way to the Wisconsin four, only to see another threat perish as the Badgers' illustrious guard, Jerry Stalcup, jarred Easterbrook loose from the ball and, temporarily, his senses.
With just five minutes left in the game, the score still 6-2 and Sophomore Mel Meyers in for the groggy Easterbrook, Illinois had the ball on its 19. A squat, bull-necked, 211-pound Illinois fullback, Bill Brown, barreled 20 yards up the middle on the first play. Alternately faking to Brown (younger brother of another damaging Illinois fullback, Jim Brown) and handing off to him, Meyers exploited to the utmost the then soft underbelly of the Badger line. He finally crossed everybody up by passing nine yards to Halfback Gary Kolb at the Badger one.
Two cracks at the line were unrewarding, but on third down, on a play called in the previous huddle in the race against time, Bad Bill Brown slashed off right tackle for a touchdown at the final gun. Gerry Wood, fellow Mendota, Ill. townsman of the Brown boys, kicked the conversion to make the score 9-6, and delirious Illinois students ripped down the goal posts.
Not the least of the day's paradoxes was the fact that thundering hold-the-line pleas by Wisconsin fans during the 81-yard Illinois drive contributed to the Badgers' defeat. By coolly holding up play when the din overrode his calls and receiving brief official time-outs for crowd-silencing, Meyers preserved additional precious seconds for his team's march. Well aware of the danger, Dale Hackbart and other Wisconsin men frantically gestured—in vain—for quiet.
Bill Brown frisked through a shower and hurried off to keep a date in Mendota with his home-town fiancee. Brother Jim, looking like a Madison Avenue adman with buff raincoat and furled umbrella, grinned and said, "That Wisconsin line seemed to be a little vulnerable up the middle."
It certainly did. But the homely virtues could still prevail, and Wisconsin might yet go to Pasadena on New Year's Day. Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan State have identical 4-2 Big Ten records. Michigan State has completed its conference schedule—which is both a help and a hindrance to the Spartans. Should Wisconsin lose to or tie Minnesota this Saturday and Northwestern lose to or tie Illinois, Michigan State is on its way to Pasadena. But should either Wisconsin or Northwestern win, Michigan State is out. If either Wisconsin or Northwestern wins on Saturday and the other loses, the winner is automatically in. But if both win, then the Big Ten directors of athletics will vote to determine which represents the conference in the Rose Bowl. Either team might be selected, but the guess is that because of its victory over Northwestern the directors would vote for Wisconsin. On New Year's Day in California, then, either Washington or Oregon may well receive its first formal instruction in the Wisconsin Idea.