EVANSTON, Ill. — It was unusual for Ohio State to play a football game on a Friday night.
The Buckeyes’ matchup with Northwestern was only the second time they had done so in the regular season and the first time since 1959.
But one element was commonplace. Kickoff at Ryan Field was under floodlights.
A majority of the Buckeyes’ night games this decade have taken place on the road. Since former coach Urban Meyer's first season in 2012, they have played 37 night games, including 26 of them on the road, according to the school.
The trend continued this season.
Before the trip to Northwestern, the Buckeyes had also faced Nebraska in a prime-time game in Lincoln. Their sole night game at home was against Michigan State this month. So, for scorekeeping purposes, that’s two on the road and one at home.
The disparity is seen by some observers as a possible disadvantage for Ohio State. Night games often bring larger crowds, ones that are more impassioned after hours of tailgating in the pregame hours, leading to more hostile environments on the road. The Buckeyes’ lone loss last season came in a night game at Purdue.
To add to the atmosphere, opposing teams often rely on various stunts.
Northwestern wore all-black, alternate “Gothic” uniforms on Friday night.
“Everyone is going to be juiced up and ready to play,” right guard Wyatt Davis said earlier this week, when asked about the scene.
Davis thought it added a degree of difficulty, though others were less certain.
Coach Ryan Day observed that most opposing crowds were eager to see their team face the Buckeyes and possibly upset one of the most prominent teams in college football. No matter the time of day, it heightened the atmosphere.
“It’s something that we've become quite used to,” Day said.
One challenge of road night games had nothing to do with the crowd size, but travel schedules. Coaches and players stay the night before the game at a hotel, then wake up the next day with more time on their hands before playing at night.
“I like noon games, because you wake up and it's time to go,” Davis said. “We just get so excited for those games.”
Night games leave them with more hours to kill.
“You have got to be relaxed and subtle and just kind of build that energy as it moves on,” Davis added.
The Buckeyes’ night game at Northwestern was likely their last of the regular season, no matter the locale.
Of the final five regular-season games, two have kickoffs set for noon. And the other three games — Nov. 9 against Rutgers, Nov. 16 at Maryland and Nov. 23 against Penn State — all coincide with an important date on the calendar.
Under Big Ten rules, both teams must agree to a night game following the first weekend in November because of possible cold weather.
Ohio State officials have already told the conference that they would not choose to play those games at night.