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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Football: ‘I don’t know what to expect’ — NUFB gives thoughts on Ryan Field atmosphere before first true home game

Daily file photo by Joanne Haner
Students run across Ryan Field during Wildcat Dash.

Outside of Evanston locals, a miniature student section and local high school bands, Ryan Field’s stands were mostly bare on Sept. 9 when the ‘Cats played UTEP. The 14,851 people in attendance pales in comparison to a Wildcat contest in mid-October.

That’s because unlike most schools, NU’s quarter system meant classes and its freshman orientation week, Wildcat Welcome, weren’t in session yet. Most students, most notably excitable freshmen, weren’t on campus.

That all changes on Saturday, though, as the ‘Cats (1-2, 0-1 Big Ten) welcome in Minnesota (2-1, 1-0 Big Ten) for an under the lights battle starting at 6:30 PM Central Time.

On top of that, freshmen will have the chance to partake in the “Wildcat Dash” across Ryan Field before the game — an annual tradition dating back to 2010.

With a real home crowd in attendance, the upcoming game marks interim head coach David Braun’s first “true” home game.

“Honestly, I don’t know what to expect,” Braun said. “Real excited for the opportunity for our guys to have students back, for it to be Wildcat Welcome, to have all the incoming freshmen at Ryan Field along with a great deal more of the rest of the student body.”

Aside from giving freshmen a chance to race across the grassy terrain at top-speed like players during the game, Saturday will see a student section filled to the brim. This also includes the recruits and commits who plan to be on the sidelines.

And with it being a night game — an arguably more intense atmosphere than a day game — Saturday is likely to see even more fans coming out to support.

Sixth-year quarterback Ben Bryant said the electrifying energy from the fans makes the games even more fun. He added that it gives the ‘Cats a big advantage at home, especially in big games like Saturday’s.

“We’re all just excited to see students there supporting the team at a night game,” Bryant said. “You kind of feed off the fans and they kind of bring the energy on third downs when the other team is out there.”

Braun and Bryant’s excitement for the fans matched their enthusiasm facing the Golden Gophers — symbolizing the start of Big Ten play.

Bryant said the Big Ten West is wide open, and with both the ‘Cats and Golden Gophers on that side of the conference, he views Saturday as a chance to put their best foot forward. A win would give NU much-needed momentum before facing No. 7 Penn State on Sept. 30.

Although NU has lost its last three meetings against Minnesota, the combination of a young crowd mixed with the thrill of Big Ten play beginning sets a tone that can’t be replicated for the rest of the season.

“If you can’t get charged up for this opportunity, you know, you’ve got something wrong with you,” Braun said. “We have a young, freshmen group that’s excited to be a part of the Big Ten experience and we’re looking forward to having them in Ryan Field on Saturday.”

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