When the NIU football team last battled Toledo, the two teams combined for 123 points. Sixty-three of those belonged to the victor Huskies.
A year later, with MAC Championship rights again on the line, the Rockets are coming Wednesday night to DeKalb on the heels of a stinging 34-27 conference loss to Ball State.
They’re unlikely to enjoy what awaits them inside “Blackout” Huskie Stadium.
NIU owns both the longest home winning streak and the longest conference winning streak in the country at 20 and 14 games, respectively. The Huskies have won nine consecutive games; NIU, Alabama and Oregon are the only NCAA FBS teams to have won 18 of their last 19 games.
Huskie QB Jordan Lynch leads the NATION in:
- total offensive yards: 3,517.
- rushing yards: 1,342
- points responsible: 210 (35 total touchdowns)
Lynch also has extended his NCAA record for most consecutive 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback to eight. He has not thrown an interception in six games (165 passes) and has not turned the ball over in 291 touches.
The Mt. Carmel High School alum is the only player in FBS this season with two games of 150-plus passing and 150-plus rushing yards. What’s more, he’s thrown for a touchdown in eight straight games and run for at least one score in NIU’s last six games.
Ready? Game time is 8 p.m. As always, NIU STUDENTS ARE ADMITTED FREE WITH THEIR NIU OneCards.
“The most winningest class in NIU football history gets to go out on the field at night on national television and play. We’ll do everything we can as a coaching staff and as a football team to send them out the right way,” Coach Dave Doeren says of his Huskies.
“Obviously we know we have a great football coming to play us. Last year, that game was pretty storied game. We know what kind of players are in it and how explosive both teams can be,” he adds. “I was told the first day on campus, when you have your press conference and tons of people walk up to you congratulating you, many of them said, ‘Beat Toledo.’ ”
Doeren and the team would love to see every seat taken.
“It would be good for our university. It’s obviously good for football and recruiting but you know for the university to show that kind of school pride. I think it says a lot about everybody. It’s a brand. It’s NIU football. It’s the university,” he says. “There are commercials about the university. It’s ESPN’s presence, all those things. You don’t get better advertising then national television for four hours, 8 to 12 p.m. It’s going to be great for our university and particularly … if it’s full of black shirts.”
“It’s the blackout game. Period,” linebacker Tyrone Clark says. “For it to be sold out would be a big deal, especially with it being Senior Night. It would be a dope way to start the game.”
Doeren says the “little bit of down time” – their last game was Saturday, Nov. 3 – was “important for our football team and our coaching staff to be able to decompress a little bit before we get into the grind again.”
“Obviously, any time you get guys some time off you got to break the rust but we needed it. Our guys needed a little time. We were beat up,” he says. “I know it didn’t look like it against UMass, but we were. We had seven starters, I think, not play in that game. We needed that time off … I think we will be okay. We will prepare them the right way.”
The players also understand the deep antagonism with Toledo.
Although the Rockets lead the series 29-10, including an 11-7 edge inside Huskie Stadium, NIU has claimed victory in the last two meetings. Meanwhile, the new and lone blemish on Toledo’s MAC record is likely to play big into Coach Matt Campbell’s locker room pep talk
Lynch isn’t intimidated.
“They played a very good Ball State team. They gave us trouble when we played Ball State. They (Toledo) still control their own destiny. If they win, they win the MAC West and go to the MAC championship game,” the QB says. “They’re still going to have that fight and that hunger in them just like we will. It’s a rivalry game.”
“We just take it one game at a time, one year at a time,” Clark adds. “It’s good to know that we’re on top, but we don’t look at it that way. We just take it one game at a time. Toledo is next. It’s an opportunity to play them, and it’s an opportunity to get a win against them. We don’t really feed a lot into who’s on top. It is what it is.”
For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.