Usually, when legendary head coach Joe Paterno brings his Nittany Lions to a stadium, tickets are sold out weeks in advance. Add a Big Ten opener to the mix and you may as well set up camp on the couch. But, not unless it’s Penn State at Northwestern. Ryan Field has to be the only team that wouldn’t fill even half their stadium in such a situation. Northwestern’s fan base is extremely fair weather. The slightest cloud in the way will keep them home. A large portion of the fans traveled from Pennsylvania, as well. Wildcat fans have their good moments, but this day certainly was not a day to allure new recruits. Seriously, some fans actually stretched out on their bleachers and grabbed a few snoozes at halftime. Ridiculous.
Those Northwestern fans who suffered through this beautiful seventy degree September afternoon were treated to one of the best games of the season. The Wildcats jumped out quickly leading 23-7 and absorbing most of the control. Penn State cut the lead by a touchdown for the break and it was difficult to say which team had the momentum.
By the second half, it was clear that the Nittany Lions had the sharper claws. As the fourth quarter clock began to run on empty, Penn State quarterback, Michael Robinson, ran for an eight yard score that gave his team their first lead of the day at 27-26. The Wildcats found a bit more “kick” in their offense when kicker Joel Howells stole the lead back with just over two minutes. At 29-27, Penn State began what they would hope to be a game winning drive. They faced an improbable fourth and fifteen deep in Wildcat territory. Robinson stepped up again and completed a perfect throw for exactly the required amount causing every navy blue clad fan to lose their seat and exhale in relief. Robinson continued the drive with strong leadership and in one quick motion, he let fly a 36 yard zinger to Derrick Williams who spun away and scored the winner with under one minute remaining.
Penn State’s victory would be their first toward a Big Ten conference title. Northwestern played valiantly and would prove themselves to be a formidable opponent throughout the conference season. Hopefully, those who stretched out at halftime were able to wake up to see this fantastic finish.