Keys, claws and nachos for breakfast: A beginners' guide to NU football games
    Northwestern takes the field at the 2006 Ohio State game. (Photo by Tom Giratikanon / North by Northwestern.)

    Hi freshmen and welcome to Evanston. By now you’ve pretty much had all your Northwestern firsts: first frat parties, first classes, first hot cookie bar. But there’s still one important college first, and that’s your first Wildcat football game. You can, of course, experience this important milestone on Saturday by making the long trek up to Ryan Field to watch the ‘Cats, fresh off a 58-7 beatdown at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes, take on the Michigan Wolverines. Before you go, however, here are a few things you should know about NU football that will make you blend in with the most grizzled of fans.

    Traditions any baby Wildcat should know:

    Keys: One thing you’ll notice is that everyone in the student section shakes their keys immediately before kickoffs. Some say that Northwestern students started doing this as a way to inform opposing fans that they were going to be pumping our gas or parking our cars someday. Today, this is one thing we get to do that helps justify going to a school that destroyed our parents’ retirement savings.

    The Claw: When the visiting team is on offense, it is traditional for NU students to make a claw with one of their hands and yell. Sure would intimidate me.

    Complaining about how early it is: The Big Ten has games at 11, 2:30 and 7. We’re not exactly a team the networks fight over to feature, so most of our games take place at the ungodly hour of 11. This means you have to wake up sometime around 9:30 to make it in time for kickoff. That’s not exactly conducive to pregaming, and thus we are all forced to watch the ‘Cats play sober. Sad.

    Singing along to the marching band: We may not be equal to Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin in terms of football, but we certainly make up for our lack of athletic prowess with NUMB, our marching band. This may explain why students often spend more time watching the action off the field. NUMB sing-along favorites include “Stacy’s Mom,” “Hey Baby,” and my personal favorite, “Tarzan Boy.”

    State school chant: Sometime in the second quarter, when the game is already well out of reach, you will hear someone trying to start chanting “state schooooooooool” at the Michigan fans. You should not join in, however, as the chant is basically an admission that our football team does indeed suck and that NU students really are elitist douchebags.

    Important personalities you should know:

    Pat Fitzgerald: Fitz, who played on Northwestern’s 1995 Rose Bowl team, took over as coach in 2006 after former coach Randy Walker passed away. The Wildcats have gone 6-10 under his reign. If you are looking for something to pass the time during the game, watch how his eyes pop out during big Michigan plays. Simply hilarious.

    Tyrell Sutton: Sutton, a junior from Akron, Ohio, is probably the closest thing we have to an NFL hopeful. He rushed for 1,515 yards his freshman year and won the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award. However, he was injured in the September 8th game against Nevada and his status for Saturday is still uncertain.

    C.J. Bacher: This Cali boy and communication major is our quarterback. On his Northwestern roster page it also tells us that he likes Boyz II Men and the movie The Patriot. Like NU football in general, Bacher has been very inconsistent, and how he’s doing individually is usually a good measuring stick for how the team as a whole is playing.

    So head up to Ryan Field bedecked in purple for a Division I football experience. Who knows, you may tell stories to your grandkids about that legendary Northwestern pounding of Michigan. If not, I can at least assure you that the nachos are quite tasty.


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