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NIU accepts invite to Bowl

December 4, 2011

MAC ChampsThe Mid-American Conference Champion Northern Illinois Huskies will close out a record-setting 2011 season versus Arkansas State, champions of the Sun Belt Conference, on Sunday, Jan. 8 in the Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The announcement was made Sunday by Northern Illinois Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher, Bowl president Jerry Silverstein and Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference.

The Huskies (10-3, 7-1 MAC) and Arkansas State (10-2, 8-0) will face off in Mobile’s historic Ladd-Peebles Stadium at 8 p.m. (CST). The game will be televised nationally by ESPN. NIU will finish its season by playing in a bowl game for the fourth consecutive year and the sixth time in the last eight seasons.

Tickets for the 2012 Bowl game can be purchased for $45, or access the link through the Bowl Central page on the Northern Illinois Athletics’ website at beginning at 9 a.m. (CT) Monday, Dec. 5. Fans can also call the NIU Athletics Ticket Office in the Convocation Center at 815-752-6800 during regular business hours.

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. 8 at Noon. Proper identification will be required.

Information on travel to Mobile, including fan and student bus packages, will be available on NIU’s “Bowl Central” website on Monday. Fans are also invited to check the bowl’s website at for information on bowl events, parking, Ladd-Peebles Stadium, the city of Mobile and more.

Northern Illinois, which claimed its first Mid-American Conference Championship since 1983 Friday night in Detroit with a 23-20 comeback victory over Ohio, has won at least 10 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. The Huskies have a chance to match last season’s school-record 11-win season and will ride an eight-game winning streak into the bowl game.

Compher was enthusiastic about carrying the excitement of the MAC Championship game win into 2012.

“This invitation to the Bowl in Mobile caps off a great weekend for the Huskies and our fans,” Compher said. “Our team is excited to represent the Mid-American Conference as league champions in the Bowl, a bowl that has a long history with the MAC. Mobile is a great destination, especially in early January, and I know the city will welcome our team with open arms. We hope many Huskie fans will enjoy the holidays with their families and then come to Mobile to watch this championship team play one final time.”

NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren, who helped take teams to bowl games eight times as an assistant, leads the Huskies into the Bowl in his first season at the helm of the Huskie program.

“We are very excited to represent the MAC and play Arkansas State, the champion of the Sun Belt Conference in Mobile at the Bowl,” said Doeren. “We were the first selection among teams from our league which is an honor. It’s a great opportunity to showcase our players and our program on national television the night before the national championship game.”

Doeren said the benefits of playing in a bowl game carry over into future years, recruiting and other aspects of the program.

“Anytime you can extend your season, you create an opportunity for additional practices for your football team, which is huge in the development of our young players,” Doeren said. “It is like having an additional spring ball. This is also a reward for our fans, boosters, players and families who have the opportunity to travel to a bowl site and enjoy all the events and activities surrounding the game.”

Northern Illinois is led by senior quarterback Chandler Harnish, who won the Vern Smith Leadership Award as the top player in the MAC, and was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year. Harnish, who owns 20 Northern Illinois school records, has accounted for more than 4,300 yards of total offense in 2011 with 1,382 rushing and 2,942 passing yards. He is responsible for 37 touchdowns with 11 rushing and 26 passing. The Huskies’ defense, which held Ohio scoreless in the second half of Friday’s MAC Championship game to allow the NIU comeback, features Mobile native Jimmie Ward, a sophomore safety who ranks second on the NIU team in tackles with 93.

Northern Illinois extends its consecutive bowl game season streak to four and the Huskies will make their sixth bowl appearance in the last eight seasons. The Bowl will be NIU’s 12th bowl game all-time. A year ago, NIU defeated Fresno State in the 2010 uDrove Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, 40-17, to improve its record in bowl games to 4-7. The Huskies are 3-3 in bowls since moving to the “Major College” (now Football Bowl Subdivision) ranks in 1969.

The Huskies played in the International Bowl in Toronto, Canada on Jan. 3, 2010 to conclude the 2009 season and battled Louisiana Tech in the 2008 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.

Northern Illinois and Arkansas State will meet for the first time since the 1996 season, and the bowl contest will mark the eighth all-time between the teams. NIU owns a 6-1 lead in the series, which included three games played as Big West Conference foes from 1993-95. Northern Illinois won the last meeting, 31-30, on Sept. 21, 1996 in Jonesboro.

The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt Conference title outright with a 45-14 victory over Troy Saturday at ASU Stadium to improve to 10-2 overall, 8-0 in the league. Arkansas State is just the third school in SBC history to finish undefeated in league play and the Red Wolves won 10 games for the first time since 1986.

The Mid-American Conference has had a relationship with Mobile’s bowl game since 2001 and the Huskies will be the eighth different league school to play in the game. A year ago, Miami (Ohio) defeated Middle Tennessee State, 35-21, in the Bowl.