Gameday Observations: Penn State vs. Northwestern
Penn State is still rolling after securing bowl eligibility with a 31-7 win over Northwestern this weekend. The Nittany Lions, in just their second road game of the year, embraced the atmosphere of Ryan Field like it hasn’t often away from Beaver Stadium during the James Franklin era.
Here’s a few things we noticed from Evanston:
- Ryan Field is one of the coolest stadiums in the Big Ten. It has an old school feel that’s unmatched by some of the more prominent stadiums within the conference. It’s engrained in the community — the stadium’s located directly next to town. Its aesthetic is something that adds to Northwestern’s overall luster, and the natural grass is a nice touch. Its special design makes Ryan Field a unique gem — one that boasts plenty of history.
- With this nice little stadium nestled in the community of Evanston, this place has a cool college-town feel to it. It would just be nice if it would embrace that, instead of plastering “Chicago’s Big Ten team” around Ryan Field. Evanston is an estimated 30 minutes from Chicago, but traveling by car on the day of the game, let’s just say it would take quite a bit longer. At the end of the day with the importance of being in a huge media market, school’s will claim local(-ish) cities like Northwestern claiming Chicago, Rutgers claiming New York, or Maryland claiming D.C. Yet Big Ten towns, at their best, are the tight-knit community towns like State College, Evanston, and the lot.
- It’s not officially the Windy City, but Evanston definitely lived up to the nickname of its nearest city. It had an impact on the game, with punter Blake Gillikin made note of the breeze after the game, saying how excited he was to get off a long kick into Evanston’s strong headwind. For the fans and those in the stands, it was a nice cool off from the surprising 70-degree October weather. Come frigid November, you would not want to be anywhere near that whipping Ryan Field wind.
- Inclement weather managed to hold off until about 40 minutes after the game concluded. Fans, fearing unpleasant weather conditions, lucked out despite reports suggesting otherwise. Everybody stayed dry until the sky opened up and Lake Michigan disappeared on the horizon. Quite a way to further damper Northwestern’s homecoming afternoon. If there was a bright spot, the double rainbow opening up on the skyline following the downpour was pretty cool.
Giant double rainbow over Evanston today. 🌈 pic.twitter.com/RcWYJ6c37j
— Matt Wright (@matt_wright) October 7, 2017
- After getting used to the wand entry system at Beaver Stadium the last few seasons, it was rather strange to not see similar practices in place in Evanston. Outside of the typical bag check, there wasn’t much difference between going to a game at Ryan Field and catching an outdoor concert at a public park. Sure, it makes entry a much faster and less annoying process, but it was still somewhat strange for 2017 from a security standpoint.
- Perhaps it was the early kickoff or the impending weather on the radar, but Northwestern alums left plenty of room for Penn State fans (and some empty seats) Saturday. The capacity at Ryan Field has been 47,130 since 1997, yet roughly 41,000 showed up for what turned into a lopsided Big Ten tilt. Maybe it has something to do with the unorthodox “reverse auction” the university uses to sell season tickets.
- Speaking of the Penn State fans, they managed to show up in full force despite being hundreds of miles from Happy Valley. The Penn State Alumni Association of Chicago organized a White Out, and it’s fair to say the group was successful for its portion of the stadium.