EVANSTON, Ill. — While Ryan Field has the smallest capacity (47,310) of any Big Ten football venue, there are plenty of subtle nuances that make it an enjoyable place to watch a game.
From the higher seats in the west stadium, there are views of Lake Michigan and Grosse Point Lighthouse.
Parts of the stadium were similar to those at past Husker road stops. The north end zone with the football building was reminiscent of Iowa State and Kansas State while the berm at the south end — though much smaller — brought back memories of Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo.
One other nice touch in the north end zone is a collection of flowers that spells out Wildcats across the length of the football building.
Nice hand for T.O.
Retiring Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne was honored by Northwestern officials during a break in the first quarter. He was presented a set of golf clubs and got a long round of applause from the entire Ryan Field crowd.
Of course, Osborne got extra cheers from the Nebraska faithful. The south end zone crowd chanted, “T.O., T.O.” for another minute.
Kicking it straight
Northwestern place-kicker Jeff Budzien and kickoff specialist Steve Flaherty had an unusual pregame warm-up routine.
Instead of kicking down one of the sidelines or in the middle of the field, Budzien and Flaherty lined up on either side of the south goal post and practice kicking as close to the uprights as they can as a way to keep the ball straight.
Only one time did a kick hit the side of an upright. Very rarely did the student managers catching the kicks have to move more than a step or two to retrieve the ball.
While many Nebraska fans entered Ryan Field as early as they could, there wasn't much of a buzz during warm-ups until about 25 minutes remained before kickoff.
|BIG RED TODAY ON FACEBOOK|
|Join the conversation on the Big Red Today Facebook page.|
When the Northwestern marching band played the Nebraska fight song during its pregame show, Husker fans out-shouted the people in purple for the first time.
Husker fans also stepped up when the teams entered the field prior to kickoff. The Wildcats came in first, but as soon as Nebraska began running in, the cheers from Nebraska fans drowned out the few boos coming from Northwestern supporters.
Northwestern debuted a new helmet design for this game.
Instead of the traditional “N” on both sides of the helmet, there were modern versions of the Wildcat logo etched in gold.
Nebraska offensive line coach John Garrison usually is a cool customer on the sidelines, but one play in the first half made the former Husker offensive lineman blow his stack.
A big Nebraska gain was negated by an illegal formation penalty called on right tackle Andrew Rodriguez because the Aurora graduate was lined up too far off the line of scrimmage.
Garrison was a few feet off the sidelines yelling at Rodriguez for the infraction, even as the next play was beginning. He had the same reaction when Jeremiah Sirles was called for the same penalty early in the fourth quarter, though that time someone on the Husker sideline quickly corralled Garrison back into Nebraska's sideline box.
After Nebraska cleanly fielded a punt after fumbling away two before that, fans dressed both in red and purple gave Ameer Abdullah a sarcastic cheer for executing a fair catch.
Abdullah's miscue led to a Northwestern touchdown while the ball Kenny Bell lost later in the game didn't.
Contact the writer: