On a day where fans could barely see their hands in front of their faces due to the heavy fog, Ryan Field in Evanston was far from full. Add rain to the recipe and the atmosphere was most certainly dampened. Minnesota strode in on a losing streak while the Wildcats were looking to regain top twenty-five status after being slammed by Ohio State the week prior.
Northwestern showcased a fast paced offense that the Gophers hoped would be slowed by nature’s fog fest. The Wildcats battled both the Gophers and the elements on their first two drives and effortlessly found the endzone on both instances stretching their advantage to 13-3. The offense then shifted to an ineffective autopilot mode. A 71-yard punt return for a touchdown by Sam Simmons jolted the crowd and the scoreboard for the Wildcats late in the first half giving Northwestern a 20-10 edge at the break.
The rain and lack of offense continued in the second half soaking the loyal onlookers and adding further insult to the already turbid field. Minnesota kept trying to chip away at the Wildcat defense, but found the endzone only once more. The Wildcats played a game of “hurry up and wait” throughout the contest by scoring the majority of their points in the first half and depending on their defense to keep the Gophers from the painted part of the field.
The final was 23-17 and as purple fans filed out of Ryan Field, I overheard a conversation between two older Wildcat faithful. They observed that the exiting fans were not exhibiting much excitement for the victory and there was a time in Evanston when a six-point victory over Minnesota would have resulted in goal posts being torn down and a season being made. Now that Northwestern is 4-1 and back in the top twenty-five, the fog has lifted and expectations have been elevated.