I’ve got the heat blasting as I try to warm myself. Before the sun set, the day was crisp but not too cold; afterward, I shivered often. Or maybe it was shuddering. I could have used a stiff drink, and not just to keep warm.
Illinois soundly beat Northwestern today behind a mind-boggling 519 rushing yards, including 330 (!) from Mikel LeShoure alone. NU could not stop the run, from the very start, and the Illini never stopped running—they threw 14 times for just 40 yards. Everyone knew what was coming, but it made no difference. Pathetic.
Dan Persa, out for the season, was sorely missed. His replacement, redshirt freshman Evan Watkins, played about as well as I’d hoped. He made the inevitable miscues, and his nerves got to him at times, but it could have been worse. The defense cost the ‘Cats the game, not Watkins.
I had seen the pictures of the Wrigley Field makeover, but only when you see the field in person do you really feel the weirdness. Wrigley hadn’t hosted football in 40 years, and seeing a big white rectangle wedged inside the diamond felt so very wrong. In my bleacher seat behind the east end zone, I sat stunned for a while. The goal post jutting out of the wall twenty feet to my left and the ushers dressed in Cubs garb made my brain misfire even more.
The setup grows on you, though. Wrigley’s still Wrigley. A couple of obnoxious girls seated behind me complained about the lack of a video screen—“How am I supposed to see what’s happening?” they said while the players stood so close they’d respond if you called their names—but Wrigley doesn’t need one. It demands your attention like few other parks; give it, and you won’t miss a thing. It’s a shame that many people choose to experience the world through screens when the magnificence of the real is right in front of them.
A few miscellaneous notes:
The ushers, apparently under orders from the university, tried to enforce assigned seating in the student section. In the bleachers. You can guess how that went.
I understand the safety concerns, but I still selfishly wish the east end zone had been used. We students spent the game watching the ball move away from us, except on Brian Peters’ interception return TD. That play electrified the bleacherites, and I wish we could have experienced that more than once.
The scene outside the park was wild. The giant fan tent, live music, ESPN College GameDay… there were a lot of people in the streets. And a bunch of them had already had too much to drink by 1 p.m. Typical Wrigley.
The Home Depot hardhat giveaway was a terrible idea. They do know that no self-respecting NU student would ever wear orange during a game against Illinois, right?