The old phrase, “What goes around comes around” couldn’t have been more fitting for our second game of the day between Duke and Northwestern. Each team exchanged turnovers on their opening plays validating that phrase with immediate gratification. To learn how this phrase applies on a more grand scale, we have to go back 25 years when Northwestern was riding a 34 game losing streak. The Northern Illinois huskies helped to snap that dreaded streak in 1982 causing fans to storm the field, tear down the goal posts, and hoist them into Lake Michigan. Now, in 2007, the Wildcats are in a better place athletically, but Duke is the team that comes in carrying a 22 game monkey on their back. On this day, it would be Northwestern’s turn to help end the pain of a dysfunctional football program. It would be done in heart-halting fashion, as well.
On “Take a Kid to the Game Night,” Ryan Field seemed to be littered with more kids and teenagers than adults. Non conference crowds are a tough draw at Northwestern and when the average age of attendees is around nine, it doesn’t exactly make for an intimidating atmosphere. The cheap lights and youthful crowd turned Big Ten football into a glorified high school game. Duke could work with this – they wouldn’t need a big play to take the crowd out of the game – a few pacifiers would do. But, at the half, the 16 point underdog Blue Devils were leading by 13 and shocking the Wildcats.
At the onset of the fourth quarter, Northwestern finally managed a touchdown to cut the lead to six. The momentum seemed to be with the home team although scoring came as easy as locating a yarmulke in a Catholic church. With under two minutes, the Wildcats got the ball back and drove down to the red zone. Four tries returned four denies by Duke and the small Blue Devil crowd leapt for joy as time expired and players hugged coaches. Some dropped to their knees looking up to the skies as though anvils had been lifted off their shoulders. Duke had broken their streak. Can the Blue Devils keep this up? How will Northwestern respond as they open Big Ten play? The Wildcats play at Ohio State next week and haven’t defeated the Buckeyes in Columbus in 36 years. Perhaps what goes around will come back around for the purple and Ohio State will help end a losing streak for NU.