Riding the red line in Chicago on this day took an entirely different meaning. Badger fans who crossed the state line, and alums living in Chicago who had yanked their favorite Wisconsin tee off the hanger, all packed the el train with red as it zipped its way downtown and unloaded a steady red stream at the Roosevelt stop. Fans from both sides began to merge near Grant Park and banter back and forth while walking under Lake Shire Drive to get to Soldier Field. This home to the Chicago Bears became “Huskie Country” for the day.
Well, that’s what the signs said anyway.
Upon flipping the turnstiles however, Soldier Field looked a little more like Chicagoland’s very own Camp Randall. Dont get me wrong, Northern Illinois fans showed in great number, but this was Big Ten action in a town where a huge majority of Bucky backers called home. With two sets of great fans, both bands, and a neutral site in the shadows of a classic skyline, this contest gave off a strong bowl game-like feel. As fans settled in, many wondered if NIU’s new head coach, Dave Doeren, would hold any advantage since he was Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator last year. As the game gained momentum, irony set in as defense would be what NIU lacked in their struggle to survive Wisconsin’s juggernaut offense. QB Russell Wilson led the charge as the Badgers tallied one TD after another. In the meantime, Wisconsin fans transferred traditions from home like the famous jump around and fifth quarter. Northern Illinois gave up a home game in DeKalb for what is becoming a new tradition in Chicago for Huskie players and fans. But, after a 49-7 romp, the experience became a bit more memorable for those rooting on the Big Ten.