Northern Illinois will close out a record-setting season with an appearance on the “blue turf” of Boise’s Bronco Stadium in the 2010 uDrove Humanitarian Bowl, Northern Illinois, bowl and Mid-American Conference officials announced Sunday.
The Huskies (10-3, 8-0) will face Fresno State (8-4, 5-3) of the Western Athletic Conference in the 2010 uDrove Humanitarian Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. (Mountain)/4:30 p.m. (Central) and be televised nationally by ESPN and can be heard on ESPN Radio.
Tickets for the 2010 uDrove Humanitarian Bowl game can be purchased for $25 through the Bowl Central page on the Northern Illinois Athletics’ website at NIUhuskies.com, or by calling the NIU Athletics Ticket Office at 815-752-6800 during regular business hours.
“The Huskies are extremely excited to be coming to Boise for a great match-up versus Fresno State,” said NIU Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher. “This is the game that our players and staff targeted as their top choice for a bowl game this year. I know that the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl’s motto is `you gotta be tough to play here’ and this team has displayed toughness throughout the season, so we feel it’s a perfect fit.”
The Huskies will play their school-record 14th game with a chance to win their 11th game, which would also be the most in school history. NIU, which was ranked No. 25 (BCS)/No. 23 (Coaches)/No. 24 (AP) prior to a last-minute loss to Miami (Ohio) in the Marathon Mid-American Conference Championship game last Friday, went undefeated against MAC foes in the regular season for the first time in school history and won nine straight games between Sept. 25 and Nov. 26.
NIU is led by the offensive tandem of senior tailback Chad Spann and junior quarterback Chandler Harnish. Spann, who was named the Mid-American Conference’s top player as winner of the Vern Smith Leadership Award, as well as the MAC’s Offensive Player of the Year, broke the school’s record for single season rushing touchdowns with 20 and has gained 1,293 yards on 243 carries. He is averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Harnish has completed 172-of-266 passes for 2,230 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air while gaining 764 yards on 127 carries and five scores on the ground. He broke a 47-year-old Northern Illinois record for total offense in a season.
Northern Illinois will play in a bowl game for a third straight season for the first time in school history and will make its fifth bowl appearance in the last seven seasons. A year ago, the Huskies represented the Mid-American Conference at the International Bowl in Toronto, Canada where they dropped a 27-3 decision to the University of South Florida. In 2008, NIU played Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. Northern Illinois also played in the 2006 Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, Calif. and in the Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif. in 2004, both under former head coach Joe Novak. All-time, the Huskies have played in 10 bowls, including five in NIU’s history as a “Major College” program (since 1969).
Northern Illinois and Fresno State will meet for the fifth time ever, and for the first time since 1991. The teams have split the four previous meetings, with NIU winning at Fresno State in 1973 (24-15) and defeating the 24th-ranked Bulldogs 73-18 on Oct. 6, 1990 in DeKalb. FSU claimed series victories in 1991 (55-7) in the last meeting between the teams in a game played in Fresno, and won the first game ever played between the teams, 9-6, in 1972.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 25-23 victory over Illinois in Fresno on Dec. 3 to improve to 8-4 on the season. Since 2000, Fresno State has earned 17 wins against BCS conference teams, tying Utah for the most by any school from a non-automatic qualifying conference. This will be Fresno State’s third appearance in the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl as the Western Athletic Conference representative.
NIU will be the first Mid-American Conference team to play in the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl under the new agreement between the league and the bowl, making the MAC a primary partner. Bowling Green played in the game last year as an at-large selection.
Northern Illinois will offer free tickets to NIU students who can attend the game. Students can pick up their free ticket (one per student) at the NIU Convocation Center Ticket Office beginning Thursday, Dec. 9. Proper identification will be required. Fans who cannot attend the game but wish to purchase tickets through Northern Illinois for $25 which will then be donated to personnel at the local Air Force base near Boise, can do so calling 815-752-6800 or online through the PDF form.
Information on travel to Boise will be available on NIU’s “Bowl Central” website later this week.