I am convinced that for Northwestern fans, part of the gameday experience is feeling intimidated on your own campus. This couldn’t be more valid when Michigan comes to visit. On our walk to Ryan Field, we had to squint to find any traces of purple while being distracted by thousands of fans screaming, “GO BLUE!” in unison. Wearing purple myself, I felt threatened and nervous and this was my familiar territory. The stadium turned out to be half and half in attendance for both teams, but if felt more dominated by the Wolverines. Yet, on a northbound train packed with maize and blue, the conductor, knowing completely well that Central Street is the stop for Ryan Field, advised all Michigan fans to exit at the Davis Street stop if they wanted to go to the game. Not a bad prank, especially for Northwestern. Even if outnumbered, I suppose everyone loves to hate the Wolverines.
Wildcat students made a nice appearance at this game. Although it may not be as impressive at first glance knowing that season tickets are built into their tuition. Tickets practically come attached to their acceptance letters. Nevertheless, it does take some effort to put down the books, shut down the computers and hop a shuttle to the game. The effort would prove worthwhile as Northwestern took a surprising 16-7 lead at the half. Michigan looked much like the opening two games where they were stunned by Appalachian State and throttled by Oregon. The Wildcats run the spread offense, which seems to confuse the Wolverines, so that could have played a role. However, turnovers became the enemy of the Wildcats in the second half and Michigan accepted every gift. Three unanswered touchdowns gave the Wolverines a 28-16 victory.
Northwestern may be accustomed to abuse in the Big Ten, but they played just as well as Michigan today and had every opportunity to win. Wildcat fans know the drill and have really become used to mediocrity. Even though bowl games are no stranger to the purple and white lately, it has been difficult for them to shake the status of being the Big Ten’s chew toy. Coach Fitzgerald is working at reversing fortunes, but Evanston’s fair-weather fans can’t take instablilty. On a survey handed out this spring, Northwestern asked, “Why do you come to games at Ryan Field?” You know it’s bad when one of the multiple choice options is “to see the opponent.”