A sunny Saturday afternoon in the Aviva stadium saw the Nebraska Cornhuskers taking on the Northwestern Wildcats in the opening game of the 2022 college football season.
The traveling Nebraska fans showed out in a big way, despite being the designated away team and easily outnumbered and out shouted the Northwestern contingent.
They started faster on the field as well, scoring on the opening drive of the game to go up by 7 early on. The touchdown came off a beautiful throw and catch on a deep corner strike, hauled in by junior wide receiver Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda.
When the Wildcats got their first turn with the ball they struggled initially to move it on the ground. Their first drive ended in a punt, and on their second could only muster a field goal.
It looked like Nebraska would be heading into the tunnel at the half with the lead, but the Wildcats didn’t come all the way to Dublin to lose and fired back with a second passing touchdown towards the end of the second quarter to make it a close game as the teams headed to the locker rooms.
More noteworthy though than what was happening on the pitch, was events unfolding in beverage outlets across the stadium. Wifi issues were playing havoc, leading to free pints being given out to thirsty fans. Lots of free pints. The complimentary Guinness certainly led to more enjoyment of the game, from my point of view anyway.
By the middle of the second half, well oiled fans were in full voice and the teams had finally found their respective grooves. Touchdowns were traded back and forth, as was the lead. The Huskers were ahead by 10 points in the middle of the 3rd quarter before Northwestern scored again to reclaim the scoreboard.
Both defenses played a key part during the game as well, forcing big turnovers that kept the momentum swinging back and forth.
The Wildcats ultimately held on to their lead and were eventual winners in a game that started slow but had some very exciting moments.
After a football drought in Ireland it was great to see the return of a big time college game to our little island. And the trappings that come with it. From the bands, the cheerleaders and the associated fanfare, it almost felt like you were in America. That atmosphere is hard to transplant and kudos must be given to the organizers for managing to replicate it outside of its natural environment. Northwestern and Nebraska are both established programs with strong fanbases, and they promoted it well enough to entice a sizable portion of that fanbase to make the trip overseas.
The focus shifts now to next year’s game. The Big One. Notre Dame and Navy will undoubtedly be a bigger draw for Irish American football fans of all vintages. And unlike yesterday’s edition of the college football classic, it will be a sell out.
Overall a very successful game, but the quality of teams will need to be stepped up in the future if they want to build on that success and keep the momentum going.
From the Aviva Stadium, Northwestern Wildcats 31, Nebraska Cornhuskers 28.