I’m not going to rehash everything that’s been said about this game. It wasn’t the most consistent game in the world and certainly not our best game this year, even, but it had one of the most exciting long-shot finishes I’ve seen. Nope, I want to talk about being in the crowd.
With 3:16 on the clock in the fourth quarter and the game still tied at 21, the Huskers had the ball on their own 18 yard line. After about five plays, Tommy Armstrong throws a strange pass, directly intercepted by Northwestern, who brings it back to the 7 yard line.
At this point, people start streaming out of Memorial Stadium. A media timeout is called and the mass exodus begins. I’m seated right above one of the exits, with the rest of the student section immediately to the right of it. We heckle some of the people walking out, particularly the younger ones, with cries of “Hey, hey! Where you going?” and a couple, quieter, sarcastic “Fair-weather fans!” thrown in for good measure.
One of the other students yells at a guy, “The game’s not over yet!”
The guy, covered head-to-toe in Husker gear, barely slows down to point at the kid and look him in the eye. “This game is over.”
The clock reads 2:25. The students stay put. Northwestern gets the ball down to the one, but between three different timeouts and at least one or two injury timeouts, ends up losing yardage and sitting on the 4 yard line on fourth down, thanks to some great lockdown defense. NW kicks the field goal, putting them up 24-21.
More fans leave. There aren’t too many snippy comebacks. Driving the length of the field is tough enough, and with the clock reading 1:20 and no timeouts left, it seems almost all hope is lost. But the students stay put.
Ron Kellogg III goes in. A couple short pass plays. A sack. An amazing fourth-down 16-yard pickup, reviewed by the officials (which gives us more time to think). Another quick first down. NW calls their final timeout with four seconds to go. After the break, RKIII launches a missile into the end zone, bouncing off a pile of players and winding up in the waiting hands of Jordan Westerkamp, his first career touchdown.
The instant the ball touches his hands, the stadium explodes. No one can think. No one can breathe. I can’t speak for everyone, but I couldn’t even yell properly, I was so happy. Happy for the Huskers. Happy we could shut down Northwestern. Happy that the season still had a lot of potential.
But most of all, happy that the single fan who thought the game was over was wrong, very wrong.