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Sweet Home Alabama: Huskies fly Wednesday to Mobile for Sunday’s Bowl fun

January 3, 2012

NIU’s Mid-American Conference gridiron champions will board an airplane Wednesday morning for Mobile, Ala., where they will compete Sunday, Jan. 8, in the nationally televised Bowl.

Coach Dave Doeren and the Huskies will fly from Rockford to Mobile, where they’re scheduled to practice Wednesday afternoon. A dinner to welcome the Huskies (10-3, 7-1) and the Red Wolves of Arkansas State University (10-2, 8-0) will take place Wednesday evening at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Victorious NIU Huskies hoist the 2011 Marathon MAC Championship trophy.

Victorious NIU Huskies hoist the 2011 Marathon MAC Championship trophy.

After their practice Thursday afternoon, Doeren and some select members of the team will visit the University of South Alabama Children’s & Women’s Hospital. On Friday, they’ll attend a luncheon hosted by Mobile Mayor Samuel L. Jones before a late-afternoon practice.

Saturday’s busy agenda begins with a noontime visit to the U.S.S. Alabama for lunch and a tour. Bowl logoThat afternoon, the team will walk through Ladd-Peebles Stadium and pose for photos. For fans, a Mardi Gras parade will take place that evening in downtown Mobile before the NIU pep rally, fireworks and street party.

On game day – Sunday, Jan. 8 – fans are invited to a HASF/Alumni Pregame Tailgate that will begin at 5:30 p.m. Quarterback Chandler Harnish and the team then will take the field for the 8 p.m. kick-off. ESPN will broadcast the contest.

Harnish, who won the MAC’s Vern Smith Leadership Award, is matched up against Red Wolves QB Ryan Aplin.

Both sport impressive numbers. Harnish notched 34 total touchdowns in 2011, passing for 23 and scampered for 11. Aplin, named Sun Belt Conference player of the year, threw 18 touchdowns and rushed for 10 more.

The Huskies lead the overall series 6-1; the two teams began their history Oct. 13, 1990, when NIU claimed a 35-0 victory.

Jimmie Ward

Jimmie Ward

For Jimmie Ward, this week’s trip is a homecoming: The NIU safety is a native of Mobile who graduated from Davidson High School.

Ward, a sophomore ranks who second on the NIU team in tackles with 93, literally set the stage for the Huskies’ 2011 scoring.

In the opening contest against Army, he blocked Kolin Walk’s first punt after a three-and-out. That allowed Courtney Stephen to collect the loose ball and return it for a 16-yard touchdown recovery.

By season’s end, Ward was among four Huskies named to the 2011 All-MAC second team.

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