Mark your travel calendar: As I looked down on Ryan Field on Saturday, I tried to think of the last time Nebraska played in a stadium this small (49,000). The stadiums at Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor are all 50,000 seats or more. This was a throwback stadium. Gorgeous, but old-school. It reminded me of the old, old K-State Memorial Stadium, the shell of which still sits on campus. When you look at the other stadiums in this league, it blows you away how Northwestern could have a stadium so small. But it works. This place is so unique. The entire campus has an Ivy League feel to it, rows and rows of brick buildings and colorful trees, that engulf the football stadium. I saw fans wearing tweed overcoats and one fellow had a purple bow tie. Meanwhile, Husker fans dominated the stadium like they used to in the Big Eight, like they can’t anymore in most Big Ten stadiums. There was a lot of red out and about in downtown Chicago, in all the nooks and crannies. It helped that the right NU won on Saturday. But Husker fans are going to love this trip, every other year.
Things to like: There was a lot to like on Saturday. The defense’s plan and execution against Kain Colter. Cam Meredith switching inside on defense. Kenny Bell’s all-out play. Jeremiah Sirles’ hustle to rush to an injured teammate. These guys don’t always play smart or disciplined. But they do play hard. Maybe that will be enough. We’ll see.
One that didn’t work: Down 21-10 early in the third quarter, Bo Pelini went for a fourth-and-3 at the Northwestern 28 rather than try a field goal within Brett Maher’s range. I thought he should have kicked. The play was a disaster. Taylor Martinez was dropped for a big loss after a mix-up on the offensive line allowed the rush to bull through. Pelini said he thought he had a play that would work (a keeper by Martinez). He said he might do it differently next time. I like that he takes responsibility for his gambles. He obviously wasn’t counting on a mis-execution. Maybe he should have known better considering the day. In any case, fourth-and-3 that early in the game is a bit hefty even if the offense is on all cylinders.