A cup of coffee and an el train ride separate Chicago’s northside from Evanston, Illinois where the venerable Ryan Field awaits its fans in purple. Fitting that the el train that takes passengers up to Northwestern University is the purple line. Filled with Wildcat fans and a few despondent Purdue fans, the el carried patrons ready for an early kickoff on a unseasonably warm November day.
The Wildcats have enjoyed a bounce-back season and are poised to return bowl game again after a two-year absence. A win on senior day would elevate their bowl prospects for the postseason. On the other track, the Boilermakers have suffered yet another underwhelming season, but have provided some flashes of hope with improved play all around.
Purdue rolled their band and “The World’s Largest Drum” up I-65 for this matchup. I kind of got the feeling that when the band scheduled this game to be their main road trip of the season, the expectation would be that the Boilers would be vying for bowl position. Instead, the team and band would be playing just for pride today.
Northwestern jumped out quickly and scored in under three minutes. It looked bad for Purdue – until their first play from scrimmage when they responded with long touchdown pass to tie the ballgame up at 7. Could this be a shootout?
On the contrary – the defensive hammer came down after those quick scores. The Boilers’ defense especially impressed after proving they can often can be leaky. By mid fourth quarter, the score was tied and Wildcats were nervously twitching their whiskers. However, a late touchdown by Justin Jackson put NU up for good and all was well along the Northwestern lakefront.
Overall, a very amicable atmosphere enveloped Ryan Field. Willie the Wildcat and Boilermaker Pete playfully joked back and forth. Purdue and Northwestern’s bands joined forces at halftime and postgame for crowd entertainment. Hardly any traces of rancorous jawing occurred between fans. It was a gorgeous day, and folks came to cheer and appreciate college football.