Bruising Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne gave everyone at Arizona Stadium a preview of what he would accomplish in his outstanding college career in the 8th Annual Cactus Bowl.
The freshman running back amassed 246 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries to lead Wisconsin to a 38–10 win over Utah. The Badgers kept their offense simple with 349 yards rushing. The Wisconsin rushing attack was so dominant the Badgers only needed two pass completions for 16 yards.
Dayne used the Cactus Bowl to provide a window to what fans would witness during his four-year career. “The Great Dayne” eventually left Wisconsin as the all-time NCAA rushing leader (6,397 yards) and the landslide winner of the 1999 Heisman Trophy winner.
The Badgers punished their way to a convincing 31–3 halftime lead. Quarterback Mike Samuel began the scoring on a 38-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. After Ute place kicker Daniel Pulsipher hit a 24-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7–3, the Badgers scored 24 unanswered points on two touchdown runs by Dayne, an 82-yard interception return by Cyrill Weems and a field goal.
Utah had more net yards (430–365) than the Badgers and moved inside Wisconsin’s five-yard line twice and inside the 20-yard line three other times, but they were only able to tally one touchdown and a field goal during the five trips inside the red zone.
The Utes lost star running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala to a first quarter ankle injury and turned its offense over to quarterback Mike Fouts, who completed 27-of-49 passes for 327 yards but threw four costly interceptions.
Terence Keehan and Kevin Dyson had 100 and 95 yards receiving for the Utes, respectively, and Juan Johnson scored their lone touchdown on a one-yard run late in the third quarter.
Dayne unanimously earned offensive player-of-the-game honors and Tarek Saleh was named defensive player-of-the-game.