The Northern Illinois Huskies will play seven home games for the first time since 2003, including a first-ever home game versus Wisconsin at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
And, for the third straight season, Northern Illinois will play all four of its non-conference opponents in September prior to opening league play on October 1.
In addition to its West Division opponents, the Huskies will play MAC East foes Kent State (at home), while traveling to Buffalo and Bowling Green for the first time since the 2003 season.
The Huskies’ first eight games will be played on Saturdays in September and October before NIU becomes one of ESPN’s featured teams in November with three straight Tuesday night appearances. Northern Illinois, along with most of the Mid-American Conference teams, plays its final regular season game Friday, Nov. 25 in preparation for the MAC Championship game in Detroit one week later.
The Huskies’ 2011 campaign opens Saturday, Sept. 3, as Army makes its first appearance at Huskie Stadium in the first half of a home-and-home series between the teams. Army leads the all-time series 1-0 with a 1992 victory over NIU at West Point.
The next week, the Huskies play their only non-conference road game of the season with a visit to Lawrence, Kan., for a Sept. 10 meeting with the Jayhawks. The meeting between NIU and KU is only the second all-time, and the first since Northern Illinois defeated Kansas, 37-34, in the 1983 season opener in Lawrence.
Wisconsin, which comes to Chicago on Sept. 17 for Soldier Field Showdown II, has been NIU’s most-frequent Big Ten Conference opponent over the years.
The 2011 game marks the first time in 13 meetings with UW dating back to 1972 that Northern Illinois will be designated as the home team. Northern Illinois played the first Soldier Field Showdown versus Iowa on Sept. 1, 2007 in front of a sell-out crowd at the historic Chicago site.
The non-conference schedule closes out Sept. 24 as Cal-Poly, which compiled a 7-4 record a year ago and claimed a victory over Football Championship Subdivision power Montana, visits Huskie Stadium for the first meeting between the teams.
“I am excited to have three local non-conference games in September so our fans have a chance to get an early look at our team,” said new NIU head coach Dave Doeren. “In addition, playing our only early road game at Kansas versus a Big 12 opponent in an area where we recruit actively, is good for us. Facing two bowl teams in Army and Wisconsin early in the season is a big challenge and sets the stage for the level of football we’re going to have to play once we get into conference play.”
Northern Illinois opens Mid-American Conference play Saturday, Oct. 1, at Central Michigan before returning to Huskie Stadium to face Kent State (Oct. 8 ) and Western Michigan (Oct. 15) on back-to-back October Saturdays.
Western Michigan has been designated as the Homecoming game as Northern Illinois will celebrate its 105th Homecoming in 2011. NIU closes out October with an Oct. 22 trip to Buffalo.
“Knowing that NIU is coming off of a great season, we’re not going to sneak up on anybody,” Doeren said. “We are going to have to play our best each and every week, no matter who we are playing, to reach all of our goals.”
The Huskies’ run of televised November games begins Tuesday, Nov. 1, with an ESPN2 contest at Toledo, which will kickoff at 6 p.m. (Central Time).
The next Tuesday, Northern Illinois is at Bowling Green for a 7 p.m. (CT) game that will air on either ESPNU or ESPN2.
On Tuesday, Nov. 15, the Huskies play host to Ball State in a 7 p.m. (CT) game on ESPNU. The contest is the lone Tuesday home game of the season for NIU and precedes the season-finale versus Eastern Michigan on Friday, Nov. 25 in DeKalb. Amazingly, Northern Illinois has not played a home game on the Friday after Thanksgiving since the MAC went to that schedule.
“What excites me about the November schedule is that we come off the bye week and then we play three straight Tuesday games with all of them on ESPN. When we come off the bye week, each week is identical. From a coaching and team standpoint, that helps because we can establish a routine,” Doeren said. “Those games are also huge for recruiting and exposure because we’ll be the only game on TV. Every football player and coach in the country coming home from practice will turn on the TV and we’ll be there. It’s a national opportunity for us to showcase the Huskies, and when you get to do it for three straight weeks that’s a big-time opportunity for our program.”
Northern Illinois returns 13 starters, including nine on offense, off the 2010 team that set the school record for victories in a season with 11, swept through its MAC regular season schedule undefeated to win the MAC West title and capped the year with a victory over Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl.
Season tickets are just $99 for all six home games at Huskie Stadium with discounts available for senior citizens, NIU Alumni Association and NIU Varsity Club (former letterwinners) members. The three-game mini-plan, which allows each individual to choose their games, is available for just $50.
Both new and renewing full season tickets holders for 2011, as well as Huskie Athletic Support Fund members, have the opportunity to order their tickets now to Soldier Field Showdown II, the NIU-Wisconsin game on Sept. 17.
For more information on purchasing season tickets as well as tickets to the Soldier Field contest, call NIU Athletics at (815) 753-1923. For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.