For a Chicagoan, a Northwestern game is just an el train ride away. I’ve been telling so many people that about the convenience of getting to Ryan Field on a football Saturday, yet I have never used that method to get there myself. Today happened to be the perfect day. Along with this first, this game would also be the very first game that I would attend by myself. Oh, the freedom! My friends enjoy traveling to games with me, but at the speed I like to go, I’ve always felt a bit held up. Today’s game in Evanston would be college football at top speed.
I hopped the el train in the city and headed north at about 7:15am. I made it with enough time to catch Northwestern’s tradition, “Walk With Us.” Coach Pat Fitzgerald implemented this tradition in honor of late coach, Randy Walker. Fans gather on Walker Way and await the team bus. As the band forms a pathway playing “Go U Northwestern” on repeat, Coach Fitz leads the team into the locker room adjacent to Ryan Field as fans cheer with one hand and clutch their morning coffee with the other.
From here, I circled the stadium a few times searching for anything photo worthy. I landed at Wildcat Alley, the pregame festival that takes place near the baseball fields behind Ryan Field. Fans were gathered to take in the smells of the grill, play a few rounds of beanbag toss, and listen to the Wildcat marching band as it gave its second performance of the day.
A great start to the morning would hopefully continue for the Wildcats in the afternoon as they look to bounce back from two tough losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Golden Gophers of Minnesota would be the opponent for the day and they too were looking to halt a losing streak. The Gophers have been without their head man, Jerry Kill, due to the need for treatment for his chronic epileptic seizures. Little did anyone know that Coach Kill snuck down from Minneapolis to watch his team play from the press box. I learned this information after the game along with the fact that he gave his team a pep talk at halftime. Perhaps that is what motivated the Gophers to find their defensive prowess and shut down the Wildcat offense handing the ‘Cats their third straight defeat.
For Northwestern, the loss to Minnesota was as unexpected as the minute long hail storm that interrupted this sun splashed day during the third quarter. The Wildcats now suddenly look ahead to an unforgiving schedule that will require their undivided attention if they wish to make it to the post season. For Minnesota, postseason dreams have been given new life. What initially seemed like a game that would be a slam dunk for the Wildcats has suddenly turned into a season changing moment for both teams.