I make no apologies for my admiration of Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. He is a nimble thinker, has a nice blend of football old school and new school, and runs his program with class and dignity. Plus, he knows how to win ballgames at a place that actually puts student before athlete.

But even constantly positive Fitzgerald must have done a double take when he saw the Ryan Field crowd of 47,330 this past Saturday. There were Nebraska fans everywhere. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought it was Memorial Stadium Jr.

Red seemed to outnumber purple. And if it didn’t, it was close. So loud were the Nebraska fans that Northwestern had to use a silent count on its final (and failed) drive. I repeat: a silent count because the visiting team’s fans were too loud.

“We didn’t prepare for that all week,” Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter said to the Chicago Tribune.

Nebraska fans are legendarily loyal. If the Cornhuskers had a game in Irkutsk, Nebraska fans would figure out a way to get there.

Chicago is a Nebraska alum stronghold, so a large Big Red turnout wasn’t a surprise. But according to Nebraska officials, Northwestern provided the Cornhuskers with 5,000 tickets for sale (as opposed to the usual Big Ten allotment of 3,000). So that means Nebraska fans were able to find another 15,000-20,000 tickets through secondary markets (Wildcats fans selling their tickets online) or, said Northwestern officials, by buying Wildcats season-ticket packages.

“Nebraska fans are pretty resourceful getting tickets,” said a Cornhuskers athletic department spokesperson.

That’s fine. But if you’re Fitzgerald and you’ve poured your guts into building a program, how depressing is it to know that Nebraska fans might have outnumbered Northwestern fans.

Attendance for the Nebraska game was a season high for the Wildcats. The next closest was 33,129 for the Sept. 29 Indiana game.

Iowa comes to Ryan Field on Saturday. Or will it be Kinnick Stadium East?