Evanston, Illinois is the only place where a wild, exciting shootout resulting in a victory by the home team over the undefeated and fourteenth ranked squad in the nation is experienced in a stadium where large sections appear to have been attacked by a delete button. In what ranks as one of the most entertaining games of the 2005 season, Northwestern fans allowed the stage to give off a high school ambiance. The Wildcat fans managed to fill the upper deck side of the stadium with their purple followers while the other side of the stadium glowed a bright red with all the travelers from the north. Unfortunately, the two sides of fans did not meet at the curved horseshoe portion of the stadium. Rather, a few empty sections separated the masses like the Berlin Wall. This is the nature of Wildcat athletics – unless the team is competing for a championship, don’t expect a flood of backers coming out to support.
Even though the atmosphere falls short of intimidating, Ryan Field still puts on a great show. The fans that did roll out of bed instead of flipping on ESPN brought their “A” game in the cheering category. The same could not be said for both defenses that apparently must have left their playbooks on the bus by mistake. Both teams have displayed yard-devouring offenses, but very few expected the need for a swat team to stop them. At halftime, the scene appeared harmless with the Badgers leading 17-10.
However, after the intermission, the game became more like a paintball battle with rapid fire shooting and points splattering on the scoreboard. Led by the gunslingin’ Bret Basenez and the speedy Tyrell Sutton, Northwestern held weapons that could penetrate any shield. By the fourth quarter, the Badgers had amassed 34 points and were running the hamster wheel trying to catch up to Northwestern’s 51.
Wisconsin, led by quarterback John Stocco, managed to slice the Wildcat lead to three with roughly a minute remaining. When the Badgers took the field for their final drive, hope swelled on the Camp Randall side of Ryan Field. However, an interception by the Wildcats closed the curtain on the comeback hopes and Northwestern earned their first Big Ten win of the season 51-48. I’m sure very few expected the game to end on a defensive note. Wisconsin’s loss became the first suffered of the season and dreams of a conference title laid in question.
Behind our group sat a few obnoxious members of the Wisconsin student section who came down to Evanston apparently to acquire large hangovers and read directly from their pocket dictionaries of vulgar language. They were aghast at the smaller venue in Evanston and continued to poke fun at the Wildcats from their pint size student section to the color of their jerseys. I would bet they were freshman from the way they expected to leave Ryan Field with the Badgers notching another victory. They must have been unaware of the history of this clash. Wisconsin and Northwestern are known most recently for their thrilling duels. When Northwestern squeaked out the victory, their salacious behavior transformed to silence. Hopefully, the lesson of “don’t judge a book by its cover” has been well documented by these finger-pointing fans.