Wisconsin


1958-66 Badgers 
(Authentic Reproduction)

 

 


 


 

The helmet featuring the “W” logos on both front and rear was so popular that the players’ identifying numerals on each side were altered for better fan viewing. They were increased in size to three-inches, changed to a thin, rounded style later associated with the Chargers, and matched to the cardinal color of the “W’s.” With a chance to take the Big Ten title, the Badgers gave up twenty fourth quarter points to Iowa in a 20-9 loss. The 7-1-1 mark, with the tie coming against Ohio State, left them just shy of the Rose Bowl with a defense that gave up but seventy-seven points. Quarterback Dale Hackbart's nine rushing touchdowns were augmented by his fine passing ability yet any offensive performances were overshadowed by his school record seven interceptions. Sid Williams and Bob Zeman rounded out the backfield while Dave Kocourek, Dan Lanphear and guard Jerry Stalcup presented a formidable line on both sides of the ball. Kocourek became a cog in the Chargers early AFL championship teams as their tight end and played from 1960 through '68, the last few seasons with the Dolphins and Raiders. The '59 team at 7-2 won the Big Ten title and defeated Ohio State, Michigan, and Minnesota in the same season. The 12-3 win on a wet field against the Buckeyes was the real highlight and the 11-7 win over the Gophers in the finale sealed the Rose Bowl berth. Of course, defeating Minnesota in the nation’s longest running “Major College” rivalry was always wonderful but securing a Rose Bowl trip enhanced this victory. Playing the hard-edged Huskies of Washington in the Rose Bowl, Wisconsin had accepted the invitation as a reward and the players took advantage of the nightlife and easy-going approach to the game. Jim Owens' Washington team bombed the Badgers 44-8 in a humiliating loss. As was written in the LA papers, "The men from Wisconsin couldn't play football for sour apples, or, for that matter, sauerbraten." Hackbart had a terrific season at quarterback finishing as the team's top passer, rusher, and scorer, and led the Big Ten in total offense. He also played safety and had a long and distinguished NFL career as a DB with five teams and sandwiched in an additional two seasons in the CFL. HELMET HUT has a wonderful ON THE ROAD feature highlighting Hackbart  (http://www.helmethut.com/College/Wisconsin/Hackbart.html).  Many did not realize that his baseball ability allowed him to earn a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was backed up by soph Jim Bakken and both appreciated the protection of Lanphear who played defensive end for the Oilers for two seasons, and guard Stalcup. Stalcup was the team MVP and then played linebacker for the Rams and Broncos in three pro seasons. FullbackZeman moved on to the NFL, playing for the Chargers in two "shifts" (1960-'61 and '65-'66), and spending 1962 and '63 with the Broncos. Zeman became a well-respected NFL coach in a career that lasted twenty-two seasons. Bruhn promised he would return to Pasadena and redeem himself and his Badgers who were ranked number five for the ’59 season.
 
The weakness of the Big Ten had been revealed in '59 in the Badgers' Rose Bowl debacle against Washington and in the conference's overall performance outside of its own league. Its need-based grants had led to a paucity of quality depth, thus in 1960 the conference scholarship rules were altered so that member schools could offer the same NCAA-approved benefits that were provided by the institutions of other conferences. In a 4-5 rebuilding year injuries took a toll with sophomore end Pat Richter missing time to a broken collarbone although he still caught twenty-five passes for 362 yards. Quarterback Ron Miller came in for the injured Jim Bakken and was the Big Ten passing and total offense leader, getting help from fullback Tom Weisner who was the team’s second best receiver behind Richter and its leading rusher. Bakken led the conference in punting and kicked a forty-four yard field goal despite his bad knee. The squad opened with three wins but injuries hurt them down the stretch and they weren’t close in losing the final three games of the season. The 6-3 1961 season had the Badgers exploding onto the national scene as the number-one passing team in the country and quarterback Miller ranked as the nation’s number-two passer with 104 completions for 1487 yards and eleven touchdowns. Miller went on to a one-year trial with the Rams but he was the key to the '61 Badger squad. Back-up Ron VanderKelen was out with eligibility problems but Jim Bakken was still around as a quarterback. He was most effective as the team's kicker and of course, had a lengthy and successful sixteen-year career with the NFL Cardinals as one of the best kickers of his era. Jim Nettles, a fine hurdler, showed promise at halfback but All American Richter, the country's number-two receiver with forty-seven receptions and eight touchdowns was the key to the offense. Sophomore Ken Bowman took over the center position and would remain there for three seasons.
 
Leading the nation with 3142 yards in total offense and 285 points scored, the Badgers defeated Minnesota 14-9 in a season-ending barnburner to capture the 1962 Big Ten title. The potent offense was led by senior quarterback Ron VanderKelen who had missed 1960 with injury and '61 with academic issues. He stormed through the season completing ninety-one passes for 1181 yards and twelve touchdowns. Consensus All American end Pat Richter was on the receiving end of thirty-eight of those tosses, picking up 531 yards and five touchdowns. Richter left the Badgers with sixteen school receiving records and 110 receptions for 1710 yards and fourteen touchdowns as the primary ones. Richter also distinguished himself as an Academic All American and one of the greatest athletes produced by the school. They had help from soph fullback Ralph Kurek, the team rushing leader with a 6.1 yard average and halfback Fred Reichardt. Up front, Ken Bowman controlled the line from his center spot. Halfback Jim Nettles and his track speed was most effective on defense. Losing only to Ohio State, Wisconsin took its 8-1 record to the Rose Bowl intent on avenging the embarrassment they endured in the January 1, 1960 loss to Washington. In what was perhaps the most exciting Rose Bowl ever, the squad entered the fourth quarter down by 42-14 to number-one ranked USC. VanderKelen exploded, driving the team eighty-yards to a touchdown. They recovered a fumble by Southern Cal fullback Ben Wilson and scored again five plays later. They forced a safety and it was 42-30 with 2:30 left in the game. A Ron Smith kickoff return and VanderKelen’s magic made it an improbable 42-37 comeback stampede with 1:29 remaining but the rally fell short. VanderKelen threw forty-eight passes and completed thirty-three of them for a record 401 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for one more score and Richter was on the receiving end of a record eleven of the throws picking up 163 yards and a touchdown. USC finished the season as the country’s number-one team and Wisconsin was number-two. Richter went on to a solid eight-year career as a tight end and punter with the Redskins while VanderKelen signed a free agent contract with the Vikings and stayed with them from 1963 through '70, primarily as a back-up.
 
SPOTLIGHT ON PAT RICHTER:
 
A nine-letter man at Wisconsin who excelled in football, basketball, and baseball, Pat Richter was an East Madison High School star who stayed home to attend the local university and always credited his strong work ethic to his east side of town, blue collar roots. Recognized as the Badgers’ greatest athlete, he was an All Big Ten first baseman and distinguished himself on the football field and in the classroom.  The conference leader in pass receptions for two seasons, the 6’5” athlete was also an excellent punter. He set sixteen school receiving records catching twenty-five, forty-seven, and thirty-eight passes in his three varsity seasons, superb numbers for the era. His eleven receptions for 163-yards not only made the January 1, 1963 Rose Bowl one of the best ever, but set long-standing records. A member of The College Football Hall Of Fame, the two-time All American also led the Big Ten in punting. Richter combined brains and brawn as a two-time Academic All American, named to The Academic All American Hall Of Fame, and as the recipient of the Big Ten Medal Of Honor given to the Conference athlete who most excels athletically and academically. Richter was the Washington Redskins first-round draft choice and played with them from 1963 to 1970 as a tight end and punter, proving to be a consistent contributor. After retiring from pro football Richter continued to excel, earning a law degree and was a key administrator for Oscar Meyer Food Corporation until he was convinced to return to the University in 1989 as Athletic Director. He inherited a department that was deeply in debt, under financed, and in need of extensive repair to its physical plant. Staying on the job for fourteen years, Richter first hired Barry Alvarez as the new football coach which led to great gridiron success and the restoration of its athletic reputation. A skilled and tireless fund raiser and a master at controlling finances, he was successful in erasing the multi-million dollar deficit, upgrading the stadium and expanding all of the athletic facilities. When he retired in 2004 Richter had placed Wisconsin on solid athletic and financial footing.
 
 
Quarterback Harold Brandt had the task of taking over for VanderKelen in ‘63 and did well completing 86 throws for 1006 yards behind center Ken Bowman who went on to a terrific career with the Green Bay Packers from '64 to 1973 but the team slipped to 6-4 as the defense softened. Fullback Ralph Kurek missed time with injuries leaving halfback Fred Reichardt to step up to lead the Big Ten in receptions with twenty-six which picked up 383 yards. Reichardt also played baseball and passed his final year of eligibility to sign what was then the largest baseball bonus ever of $205,000.00 with the California Angels. He played Major League Baseball until 1974 despite having a kidney removed his rookie season. Wide receiver Ron Smith was a dangerous return man. In 1964 Kurek bounced back from his '63 injuries and went on to a solid six year career with the Bears. Ron "Pinto" Smith excelled again on returns and was stronger on defense despite the responsibilities of seeing two-way action. He had a ten-year pro career with five teams, four of those seasons with the Bears. The 3-4 outing however was a downer and even with the performance of DB Carl Silvestri who later played with the Cardinals and Falcons, they posted the worst defense in the conference and there was rumbling despite Bruhn's recent Rose Bowl appearances.  
 
1965 brought more criticism for Bruhn as the squad fell to 2-7-1 behind quarterback Chuck Burt. Some of those losses were very one-sided and the tie against Colorado was a miserable 0-0 affair. Burt threw for 1143 yards but had twenty-two interceptions. Fullback Tom Jankowski was the leading rusher with a weak 271 yards. The defense, despite good play from linebacker Bob Richter, gave up 3317 yards and 291 points. There was discord among players that heightened the program’s tension. The bright spots in the 3-6-1 1966 season were the receiving of end Tom McCauley and tight end Bill Fritz, and rushing of fullbacks Wayne Todd and former Illinois All Stater Kim Wood. Active defensive tackle Tom Domres and linebackers Ken Criter and All Big Ten Bob Richter were the best of a mediocre defensive unit. The heat had been building on Bruhn since some had never forgotten the stoning by Washington in the Rose Bowl that followed the ’59 season, and there was ongoing criticism for poor recruiting and unimaginative game management. By ’65 the negative noise was loud and clear, continued through the 1966 season, and Milt resigned prior to the final game against Minnesota. Unfortunately his 8-19-2 record of his final three seasons was foremost in the minds of Badger boosters and fans but the struggles that Wisconsin went through for the thirty years or so that followed his reassignment to the Assistant AD post, made it “clear that the first half of Bruhn’s tenure was a special time indeed.” As Pat Richter stated, “I think his stature has grown the longer he’s been gone. I think his players appreciated him as a man and as a coach, but I’m not sure if the public fully appreciated his coaching.” In eleven years, he had gone 52-45-5 with two Rose Bowl losses.