Ahh, yes. Northwestern. The team that the Huskers always seem to have oddly-close games that go to the very end. The team that fell victim to the Westerkatch. The team I always yell “Nerdwestern” at whenever we play them. Good ol’ Northwestern.
For this game, to go along with the alternate uniforms, The Iron N planned a shirt switch where students were told to arrive in red, and once the defense made their first appearance, put on a black shirt. On top of this, 6,000 Boneyard shirts were given out as students arrived to the stadium.
While I was super excited to hear about the plans, there was one problem: nearly everyone I sit with had to give out the shirts before the game.
My friend Bri (@brihoesing) and I, the two of us not responsible for shirts, arrived at Memorial Stadium before doors open and created our game-plan for saving two entire rows of seats despite only being two people.
There was one problem with our plan, though— Bri has two stress fractures in her foot and is in a boot. I had to pull this off on my own.
Luckily, it was an 11 am game against Northwestern and the Huskers had a 3-4 record, so there weren’t many people there to fight for spots. I found myself spreading out everything I could to stretch out over the rows: my sweatshirt, wallet, sunglasses, cell phone, new Boneyard shirt. Everything.
Bri eventually hobbled down the stairs and was able to help save seats, but we quickly discovered that spreading out our sweatshirts and everything else was going to make the windy 48 degree weather a joy to wait in.
With The Iron N’s directors helping with the shirt distribution, the marketing department needed help carrying the Go Big Red banner to the East Stadium student section. Normally, I’d count myself out as a candidate due to my lack of upper-body strength and my continued fatigue from mono, but when they bribed us with a free sweatshirt, I couldn’t say no. Everyone knows the best kind of sweatshirt is a free sweatshirt on a 48 degree day.
When it came time to actually carry the banner back and forth, I quickly realized that I was pretty much useless. But I was wearing a free sweatshirt, so at least I was useless and happy.
If there is one way to get today’s Husker fans on their feet and cheering, it’s bringing out the 1995 championship team during the Tunnel Walk. The student section was deafening with the arrival of the team, despite almost every student being in diapers when the team played, if they had even been born at all. But one thing’s for sure, they can all appreciate everything that team had accomplished.
The shirt switch had happened right away to start the first quarter, creating a sea of black Boneyard shirts for the annual blackout-the-student-section game. I know a lot of the more traditional Husker fans don’t really like the blackouts, but… come on. They look awesome.
The Huskers made it on the board on their first possession with a 43 yard field goal. Much like every other time the Huskers start out with a field goal, a sea of red balloons was released prematurely, causing a domino effect with everyone else that hadn’t released their balloons yet.
Northwestern responded quickly with a 1 yard run by Clayton Thorson, putting the Wildcats up 7-3. (Editor’s Note: Thank you for not mentioning his previous 68 yards.)
The mood in Memorial Stadium changed as Ross Dzuris sacked Thorson for a safety, in which the entire student section danced around with their hands clapped above their hands.
Both teams went scoreless until a pick-six caused the Wildcats to be up by 14-5 on the Huskers with 7:17 left in the half.
The Huskers didn’t take long to respond; a 10 yard pass to Brandon Reilly lead to Nebraska’s first touchdown of the game. Even though it was the first touchdown of the game, there was only a small handful of balloons released since everyone had jumped the gun earlier. Good job, guys.
During the second quarter, students were joined by the President of the University of Nebraska, Hank Bounds. Bounds posed for pictures as the Boneyard waved their flag and held up a fathead of him, which had been staring at me for nearly the entire half. Definitely not creepy, though. Definitely not.
Northwestern brought their marching band along for the trip and had them sit in their fan section. Naturally, I had to make a few dumb jokes about how they probably did that because they didn’t have enough fans to sit there, to which most people just rolled their eyes at me. Their band played songs from the Wizard of Oz and Wicked to start off halftime.
The Cornhusker Marching Band came out afterwards and had an entire set dedicated to classic karaoke songs. Nothing makes me realize how bad I am with lyrics like singing along to the marching band, but dang was it fun to scream-sing songs like Sweet Caroline and Livin’ on a Prayer with 89,000 of my closest friends.
The second half saw a lot more scoring, with a touchdown and a field goal for Nebraska and a field goal for Northwestern, putting the Huskers up 22-20.
If you’ve ever been to a game with me, you’ll know that one of my absolute favorite pump-up songs is Higher Ground by TNGHT. I’m sure you can only imagine my reaction to finding out that the Scarlets were dancing to it before the fourth quarter instead of the Huskers using the song to pump up the crowd in between plays. Kind of offended that my partner-in-crime Allison (@aliredredwine) and I weren’t invited on the field during the performance, because we put on quite the show when that song plays.
Normally, having a fourth quarter lead would be an exciting thing. After the past few years, I wouldn’t think twice about having a close game with Northwestern towards the end of the game, considering how close recent wins have been. But this season has conditioned me (and other fans, I’m sure) to not get too comfortable with anything once the final 15 minutes of the game come around.
Suddenly, a completed pass to Dan Vitale for 37 yards for a touchdown put the Wildcats up 27-22. A 27 yard field goal put them up 30-22. The familiar ending was near.
The Huskers answered on the next possession as Tommy Armstrong ran for 3 yards for a touchdown, bringing the score to 30-28. A failed two point conversion kept the Huskers from tying it up.
At this point, all anyone wanted was to keep Northwestern from scoring and get the Huskers to score something… Anything. These dreams were crushed as an unsportsmanlike conduct on Nebraska gave Northwestern the automatic first down, allowing time to expire.
Fans poured out of Memorial Stadium as the final seconds ticked down. Feeling defeated, I felt it necessary to scream at the Northwestern team to ask them if they remembered the Hail Mary from two years ago. Got ‘em.
Let’s just hope this team likes playing against road games enough to beat Purdue next weekend.
Hayley Archer is a senior Broadcasting major at UNL. Follow her on Twitter at @Harchinator.