First, knock off a Big Ten opponent in their house. Check. Second, take a mandatory weekend off after only one game. Check.
Third, travel nearly 1,800 miles to play at the university that your new president called “home” as recently as three months ago.
Well, that final “check” is coming soon for the NIU Huskie football team, which takes on the 0-2 Idaho Vandals at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, in Moscow.
It’s a homecoming for NIU President Doug Baker, who served as executive vice president and provost at the University of Idaho before coming to DeKalb in July.
Plus, it’s another chance for some gridiron revenge: Idaho was the last team to beat Northern Illinois at Huskie Stadium. The Vandals claimed a 34-31 win Sept. 26, 2009. NIU has won 21 straight games in its home stadium since then, the longest such streak in the country.
Coach Rod Carey, who earned his first victory as the Huskies’ boss in a 30-27 thriller at Iowa, says his team is ready for the challenges of Kibbie Dome and for a “well-coached football team” playing its home opener.
“We used the bye week well. We prepared. We got a jump start on Idaho and we certainly used it to develop our young guys, and now we’re moving forward full on game plan and getting that thing all detailed out and polished and ready to go,” Carey said.
“I’ve played at the Kibbie Dome before, and that place is a hard environment to play. It’s a little old-school, not your traditional dome like the Metrodome up in Minneapolis. It’s a hard top and kind of half-circle type of deal and it just keeps all the noise right in there. The air is a little thick to breathe sometimes, too,” he added. “For us to come out and be in the fourth quarter where we want to be, we’re going to really to have to be dialed in.”
Saturday’s game will be broadcast on WYLL 1160 AM (Chicago), WLBK 1360 AM & 98.9 FM (DeKalb) and on NIUTube.
NIU has won 22 of its last 25 games dating back to Oct. 1, 2011, and is 35-8 since the start of the 2010 season.
The Huskies received votes worth 21 points in this week’s Associated Press Poll, up from 16 in the preseason, and earned 27 points from the coaches in the USA Today Coaches’ Weekly Poll, up from 19 in the preseason.
Carey’s men are paying no attention to these accolades or Idaho’s 1-11 record in 2012 as they prepare for the Vandals.
“Struggles aside, they’re a multiple set on offense. They do a nice job of X and O and scheming you, and they’ve got a nice quarterback. They use two, really. The first kid in there, No. 11, he does a nice job throwing the ball. No. 8 comes in, and he’s a little more mobile,” the NIU coach said.
“They’re kind of a pro-multiple set, but kind of incorporate some spread thing in there, too. Defensively, they go between an even front and an odd front with coverages that match on the back end. They kind of dial up different things for what they want to try to stop.”
Huskie right guard Aidan Conlon expects the Vandals to “come out fired up.”
“As an offensive player, I looked at their defense, and they show a couple different fronts,” Conlon said. “They blitz a lot, so we’ll have to be ready for movement up front, and play with our eyes up and see the big picture this week.”
Words like those? Music to Carey’s ears.
“Yes, I feel like we have an advantage. I felt like we had an advantage going into Iowa, too. That’s because of the belief I have in my players,” he said. “That’s not meant as a disrespect to Idaho or to Iowa. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t believe in my guys always having an advantage. Now we’re going to put them in a position, as coaches, to be successful.”
For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.