If fans of Northwestern Wildcats football weren’t sick to their stomach on Saturday, they should have been.
Not because the Wildcats suffered a one-point loss at home to Nebraska 29-28.
And not because Northwestern blew a 12-point lead in the final eight minutes to suffer its second loss in Big Ten play.
In fact, fans didn’t even need to see a single play at Ryan Field to understand what was wrong on Saturday afternoon, they just needed to look at the stadium itself.
In what might have been Northwestern’s biggest home game of the season, fans should have been covered in purple gear from head to toe, ready to cheer their 6-1 Wildcats on to victory. But instead, the crowd that showed up in Evanston on Saturday was wearing red.
Folks on the television said throughout the game that it felt like a Nebraska home game and that the “Sea of Red” outnumbered the Northwestern faithful in a Big Ten Legends division battle.
It’s one thing to have Cornhusker fans take over your stadium during a down year, but this was a 6-1 Northwestern team at the time, a team that was still fighting for a possible Legends division title and a chance to appear in the Big Ten Conference championship game in December.
I understand that Northwestern isn’t a school with an enormous fan base, but this should have been a different story.
What also may have been a different story, had a decent-sized home crowd showed up for the game, was the outcome of the game.
Yes, Northwestern let the game slip away. There is absolutely no question about that. It was a game the Wildcats could have won, and should have won, on Saturday to improve their record to 7-1 on the year.
Had a majority of the seats been filled with purple and white, maybe Pat Fitzgerald’s team would have been able to rally behind its home fans and come away with the victory.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been as easy for Taylor Martinez and the Huskers to drive down the field on the final drives of the game.
Perhaps a rowdy mass of people inside Ryan Field would have caused the visiting Huskers to panic a bit.
But we will never know.
It’s shocking to me that there was such a low turnout for the game on Saturday, especially with all that Fitzgerald has done for the program. Taking a team that had been the laughingstock of the Big Ten for so many decades and sporting a 46-38 record with four bowl appearances is unbelievable.
Fitzgerald didn’t deserve to witness what they saw in the stands on Saturday, and neither did the 6-1 (now 6-2) Wildcats.
Now that this rant has concluded, I want to hear from Northwestern fans. What was the reason for such a Nebraska-heavy crowd on Saturday?