Cody Cousino / Photo editor
There’s something special about a night game at Ohio Stadium.
Maybe it’s the memories of yesteryear that fans recall from their days playing under the lights as high schoolers. Maybe it’s the “good feeling” you get from a long day of tailgating.
Whatever it is that makes a night game at the ‘Shoe special for fans, Saturday’s game between Ohio State football and No. 12-ranked Wisconsin could be one to remember.
Saturday’s contest is the first at the Horseshoe for OSU since its 10-7 loss to Michigan State on Oct. 1. First-year OSU head coach Luke Fickell said at a Tuesday press conference that returning to campus for a night game is a lift for his team.
“It is an emotional thing,” Fickell said. “It’s the kickoff. It’s the (Buckeye) bounce. All those things I think are something that gives us a little bit more. Gives (the team) a little bit of energy. You’ve been on the road for a couple weeks and you really miss that.”
All the evidence needed to convince Fickell of the effect home-field advantage can have was likely provided for him on Oct. 8 at Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium.
The Buckeyes silenced a crowd of 85,426 fans in Lincoln, Neb., by jumping out to a 27-6 lead against the Cornhuskers. The fans came back to life in the second half as Nebraska rallied to win the game, 34-27. The comeback was the largest in Nebraska program history.
“You could see it be in effect when we were at Nebraska,” Fickell said. “Things start to roll, emotion happens (and) the crowd gets back into it. That’s a big part of … that momentum.”
Now, Buckeye Nation will have its turn to help thwart the Badgers.
Junior defensive tackle John Simon said he doesn’t care what time of day the team plays, but said he too is anticipating a raucous reception from OSU fans on Saturday.
“It should be pretty crazy,” Simon said. “I know our fans will get up for it with a power-ranked team (Wisconsin) coming into Columbus.”
Simon, who was named a quarter finalist for the Lott Trophy Wednesday, said the team will need to carry out its game plan in order to keep OSU fans cheering.
“We have to make sure we go out there and execute,” Simon said. “When we do, everyone does their job, it’s a good day for us. It’s going to be a fun night. We’re going to have to play well.”
The Badgers took their first loss of the 2011 season last Saturday when Michigan State senior quarterback Kirk Cousins’ last-second Hail Mary pass was deflected, then caught by senior wide receiver Keith Nichol and later ruled a touchdown. Game officials reviewed the play, which ended with 00:00 remaining on the game clock, and ruled that the ball broke the plane of the end zone.
With Wisconsin’s loss, OSU (4-3, 1-2) is now better positioned for the Big Ten conference’s home stretch. The Buckeyes can move a step closer to clinching a berth in the inaugural conference championship game at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium by sending the Badgers (6-1, 2-1) to a second consecutive loss.
Fickell said OSU has momentum and everything to play for heading into Saturday’s game.
“This game is a game of emotions and momentum,” he said. “Being at home, being a night game, I don’t think we’ll lose any of that (momentum). The most important thing is we have to maintain it and keep it. Our guys have the right attitude. They have the right focus. Now it’s time to just do it.
“That’s what you love playing at home for.”
Saturday’s game between the Buckeyes and Badgers is set for an 8 p.m. kickoff. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN.