Saturday morning marked the first time in more than six years that Kirk Herbstreit co-hosted a taping of "ESPN College GameDay" on the University of Wisconsin campus.
As the Ohio State alumnus walked off the set, he noticed not much had changed. And for the former Buckeyes quarterback, that is a good thing.
"To me, (the atmosphere) is always really good," said Herbstreit, who played at OSU from 1989 to '92 before settling into his current role as a broadcaster and GameDay host. "They've been able to maintain excellence with the home-field advantage.
"(It's) the same intimidating, hostile environment that it's been probably since Barry (Alvarez) got it going back in the mid-1990s."
Herbstreit has been on the receiving end of that hostility. As a senior captain at Ohio State, he was famously struck by a flying tomato while taking the field against the Badgers in 1992.
"We came through the tunnel, and two state troopers had riot gear on," Herbstreit said. "I remember them saying, ‘Gentlemen, we suggest you keep your head gear on.' I'm thinking, ‘Man, what are we going to?' "
The crowd assembled for Saturday morning's GameDay broadcast was admittedly more subdued than the one 18 years ago, largely due to the set's location inside Camp Randall Stadium. Although several thousand people attended the broadcast, much of the crowd noise that would have reverberated in a smaller venue was swallowed up by the stadium's size.
"In a big stadium like this, it's just different," Herbstreit said. "You probably don't get quite the rabid fan base that you get when it's more confined."
Still, the GameDay cast was impressed with the crowd's spirit and enthusiasm in anticipation of Saturday night's game between No. 18 UW and the top-ranked Buckeyes.
"It's a very famous stadium with a famous atmosphere, and it's a lot of space to fill up with a GameDay crowd," co-host Chris Fowler said. "We know we were fighting against some odds, but these people did a good job representing."
Some Badgers fans took advantage of the slightly subdued conditions to make the broadcast into a family-friendly event.
"I wanted to show them the field and have fun but not have to worry about what goes on at the game," said Madison's Zach Johnson, who was accompanied by sons Charlie (age 5) and Sam (4).
However, Saturday's broadcast was not without the usual buildup. With ESPN's nationwide college football pregame show in Madison for the first time since September 2004, many UW students waited at Camp Randall for hours in anticipation of the show's 8 a.m. start.
"We're just die-hard Badger fans," UW senior Beau Boughton said. "We love everything Badger football. (With) a chance to be on national television, we wouldn't miss it."