It was mixed in with photographs and other documents — a colorful, torn ticket stub. I picked it up and examined it and was left wondering, what is the story behind it? The game was between the University of Wisconsin and Northwestern on November 10, 1945. I presumed that my Dad was the lucky holder of the $1.75 ticket. He was 12 at the time, so a trip from Mauston to Madison for a college football game would have been a big treat. I had to find out more about this game. So I dug right into it.
The weather forecast for the homecoming game called for a high of 39 degrees after an overnight low of 18. The Friday night calm on the UW campus was broken by roving mobs of teenagers who broke store windows and vandalized cars along State Street. Madison police made 49 arrests for curfew violations, according to The Wisconsin State Journal. Still, police considered the homecoming crowd on campus well-behaved overall, so they did not use the tear gas and water wagons that were held in reserve.
Camp Randall was packed with 45,000 fans when game time arrived on Saturday. Dad (or whomever held that ticket) sat in the south end zone, Section Z, Row 6, Seat 5. This is the end of the stadium backed against the UW Field House. I’ve sat in that section myself a few times over the years. Fans were treated to a great game. “This was a game with few dull moments, one in which each turned loose a devastating running attack,” wrote Henry J. McCormick, sports editor of The Wisconsin State Journal. The first quarter ended scoreless. Wisconsin’s initial drive ended on Northwestern’s 48 when Jerry Thompson’s pass was intercepted. Northwestern fared no better, as its drive ended on Wisconsin’s 25 when Badger Don Kindt intercepted a Jim Farrar pass.
In the second quarter, Wisconsin scored a touchdown on a 16-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a reverse and a pass to the end zone. Northwestern answered with an impressive 73-yard touchdown drive. Wisconsin roared right back on the next drive. Halfback Ben Bendrick ripped off 17 of his 133 yards on one play. Kindt finished the drive by plunging into the end zone with only 8 seconds left in the half. Halftime score was 14-7 in favor of the Badgers. The second half opened with the same high tempo. Northwestern took the kickoff and moved right down the field with 70 yards on 11 plays. Farrar’s 25-yard pass to tight end Stan Gorski brought the game to a 14-14 tie. On the very next drive Wisconsin’s Bendrick tore off a 41-yard run, followed by an 11-yard scamper from Kindt. A fourth-down pass from Thompson was intercepted by Bill Hunt of Northwestern. When the Wildcats pounded down to the Wisconsin 1 yard line on the drive, the Badgers’ defense stiffened, stopping the Cats on a fourth-down pass play. As the third quarter ended, the score was still knotted at 14.
On the opening drive of the fourth quarter, Bendrick continued his punishing ground game. But lightning struck as Bendrick went around left end. The ball popped out, right into the hands of Northwestern’s Hunt, who returned the ball to the Wisconsin 9 yard line. After two running plays, Northwestern took it to the end zone for a 21-14 lead. The teams then traded unsuccessful drives. Wisconsin’s Thompson threw another pick at mid-field, but Northwestern’s ensuing drive stalled. When the Badgers got the ball back, Bendrick fumbled again. Northwestern pounced on the ball at the Wisconsin 24. Seven plays later, Northwestern scored to go up 28-14. That’s how the game ended.
When your team rolls up 244 yards rushing, it typically won’t lose. But on this day, the Badgers made too many mistakes, spotting the Wildcats 14 points with two fumbles. The headlines should have been about Bendrick’s stellar 133-yard rushing day. The Badger faithful left Camp Randall entertained, but unsatisfied. If my Dad, David D. Hanneman, was the ticket holder, I’m guessing he was there with his father, Carl F. Hanneman. The first Wisconsin game I can recall attending with my grandfather was a 1977 game vs. Michigan State. The Badgers lost that day, 9-7.
Hidden behind the headlines of the 1945 game was a compelling military story. It was just the third game back for Don Kindt, who shared halfback duties with “Big Ben” Bendrick. As just a 17-year-old, Kindt interrupted his Wisconsin football career in 1943 to enlist in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division during World War II. He saw extensive action in Italy and was awarded two bronze stars. He returned to the Badgers in October 1945. After his Wisconsin playing career, Kindt spent nine seasons with the Chicago Bears. He recounts his war experiences in an extensive interview conducted in 1994 by the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
©2015 The Hanneman Archive