The Outback Bowl through three student perspectives

Lark Turner

The BroadcasterAaron Morse has been behind the mic at more than 150 sporting events in the last four years. None was as crazy as the Outback Bowl.

“The game was the most bizarre, exciting, ridiculous football game I’ve ever been to in my life,” said Morse, the marketing director of sports at WNUR. “I still can’t wrap my mind around that game.”

Morse, who covered last year’s Valero Alamo Bowl game for WNUR, said before Friday’s game that he thought that football game was the most exciting he had ever attended.

“It was thrilling, and then the Outback Bowl happened,” he said. “It’s on a whole different level.”

The Medill senior flew to Tampa, Fla., Dec. 29 and spent the days before the game in the team hotel, checking out media and NU alumni events and meeting up with friends to celebrate the new year. But on Friday, Morse, WNUR’s former sports director, focused on football.

“There were about 10 to 15 different times when I thought it was over. I thought

Northwestern was done. Auburn was up by 14 with four minutes left,” he said. “At one point during the broadcast, I was like, ‘How many lives do these Cats have?'”

Morse said he was also impressed with NU’s presence in the stadium. He said his roommate, who is not a sports fan, attended the game on a whim and plans to attend all the football games next year.

Though the Cats came up short, Morse said surprising twists and turns made the game unforgettable.

“The Outback Bowl took it to a whole new level,” he said.

The CheerleaderBetween doing stunts and pumping up the fans, it was all NU cheerleader Kiersten Hansen could do to keep her eye on the action.

“No one really knew what was going on,” she said. “It was really intense because both teams knew that it could go either way.”

After arriving in Tampa, Fla., Dec. 29, the team spent much of their time making appearances, including an alumni dinner and a game of tug-of-war at Clearwater Beach Day Dec. 30.

“We actually had practice too,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “It wasn’t all fun.” The team also had three different performances on gameday: one in a corporate tent, one near the entrance and another for NU alumni, Hansen said.

“Of course it rained the whole time,” she said. “We got soaked.”

Hansen said it was exciting to cheer for such a large crowd.

“(The crowd) was really energetic,” she said. “It made our job a lot easier.”

The end was “heartbreaking” and confusing, Hansen said.

It was a little bit of frustration at the very end,” she said. “We could’ve had it. It was kind of disappointing.”

The DrummerDuring the Outback Bowl, the NU Marching Band bass drummer Matt Strumpf had to work to stay upbeat.

“When you’re in the band, you have to always be perky and pretend it’s OK because you have to keep the spirit of the fans up,” the Weinberg sophomore said.

The marching band arrived back on campus on Dec. 28 and left for Tampa, Fla., the following morning. They spent hours practicing in the days leading up to the game.

“It was good playing my instrument again and just getting really excited to play,” he said.

Strumpf said he wasn’t expecting what he saw when he arrived at the stadium.

“The Auburn band was huge,” he said. “And they had a pirate ship. That was pretty cool.”

Throughout the ups and downs of the game, Strumpf said he was determined to stay excited.

“I just remember being so discouraged in the fourth quarter when we were down with only seven minutes to go, but I knew I had to play ‘Go U’ with so much pride to pump everybody up.”

Despite his disappointment, Strumpf said it was not a total loss.

“It was so exciting, and the Cats came back from being so far behind,” he said. “It really helped the (football) program, and I’m not so unhappy about the outcome any more. We played a really good game.”

[email protected]