Northwestern Has one More Step to Become Elite

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

The Northwestern Wildcats were brought down to earth in their 38-0 loss to the Michigan Wolverines. Northwestern wasn’t humbly brought down by the Wolverines it was more like the meteor that wiped the dinosaurs off the face of the Earth.

Saturday’s game was hyped as the two best defenses in the country going toe-to-toe. Most people were talking about the advantages each defense has against the other to determine who would come out on top. One thing no one was accounting for was the Michigan fateful and the effect they would have on the game.

All week Northwestern had to plan for the noise and ruckus that would be going on inside the Big House, but no amount of fake crowd noise and loud music could properly replicate the emotions of looking up at 110,452 people in yellow chanting.

Crowd noise is something often talked about at the professional level with teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks even rise a flag with the number 12 on it each week to signify the 12th member of the team, the fans. In 2014 the Chiefs broke the record for loudest crowd noise. The record now stands at 142.2 decibels. To put that in context, the threshold to feel pain using sound is 137.5 decibels.

It didn’t get that loud on Saturday, but there is something to be said about playing in sense-numbing environments.

Hearing that many people all at once is something Northwestern is not accustomed to. Ryan Field holds less than half the amount of people as The Big House and the Wildcats are rarely playing in front of a sold out crowd.

Experience in a sold out stadium, wither the fans are for you or against you, allows you to learn how to handle your thoughts and emotions on a higher level. Players who can control themselves in the biggest of moments are the ones who make spectacular, game changing plays.

Let’s take a look at the first play of the game and the first Northwestern possession. Northwestern won coin toss and decided to kick the ball. That is something not out of the ordinary from Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, letting his defense set the tone. On the kickoff, Michigan’s Jehu Chesson conducted a specular 96-yard touchdown return. The return brought the Big House into pandemonium.

After receiving the ball, Northwestern went six yards and was forced to punt, forcing the crowd to get even louder. The unexpected touchdown and the quick three and out rattled Northwestern and it was easy to see through their body language. Northwestern was fighting an uphill battle from then on out.

Facing this kind of challenge before would give the Wildcats the knowledge on how to keep the game from getting out of hand.