After a 2012 season that included a 12-game winning streak, a second consecutive Mid-American Conference Championship and a trip to the Discover Orange Bowl in the first Bowl Championship Series (BCS) appearance in MAC history, Northern Illinois announced its 2013 non-conference schedule and its line-up of MAC opponents for next season Wednesday.
After playing seven home games in each of the past two seasons, including one each year at Chicago’s Soldier Field, NIU plays five games in Huskie Stadium in 2013, beginning with the Sept. 21 home opener versus Eastern Illinois.
The Huskies’ non-conference schedule begins with a rematch versus Iowa in the 2013 season opener Aug. 31 in Iowa City. Iowa defeated Northern Illinois, 18-17, in Soldier Field in the 2012 season opener by scoring its lone touchdown of the game with less than two minutes to play.
NIU will travel to Idaho on Sept. 14 and faces new Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell and the Boilermakers in Ross-Ade Stadium on Sept. 28. The Huskies last played both Idaho and Purdue in 2009 with the Vandals claiming a 34-31 win over NIU at Huskie Stadium and Northern Illinois getting a 28-20 win at Purdue that season.
Huskie head coach Rod Carey knows that coming off the success of not just 2012, but the last three years, his 2013 team will be challenged.
“We’re excited,” Carey said. “We’ve had a good record on the road over the last couple of years and we’ll look to continue that success. We have some challenges ahead in 2013 with some great teams and we’ll look forward to meeting them individually and focus on taking one game at a time.”
In Mid-American Conference play, Northern Illinois will play host to MAC West opponents Ball State, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan, the team now coached by former Huskie P.J. Fleck, along with Akron.
On the road, NIU will play Central Michigan, the last MAC team to beat the Huskies, and Toledo out of the West. Northern Illinois and Kent State will meet in a rematch of the 2012 Marathon MAC Championship game, a 44-37 double overtime victory by NIU at Ford Field in Detroit. Northern Illinois will also make its first trip to Massachusetts where the Minutemen and Huskies will play in Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, the home of the New England Patriots.
“The MAC had a great season last year as a conference,” Carey said.
“We had seven bowl teams and a ton of non-conference wins. This league has great teams and it’s always challenging. We look forward to welcoming the teams to Huskie Stadium, and then will take on the road schedule, highlighted by our first trip to UMass and a rivalry game at Toledo, which is always tough.”
Northern Illinois will take a 21-game winning streak in Huskie Stadium into the Eastern Illinois game on Sept. 21 and the Huskies own the longest conference winning streak in the nation with 17 consecutive MAC wins. NIU’s 2013 slate includes five teams that played in bowl games in 2012.
“I was so impressed with all the NIU fans that were in Miami for the Orange Bowl, whether they were students, alums or people from the community. It was awesome,” Carey said. “Huskie Nation was there in force and they were loud. We want to make Huskie Stadium look like the Orange Bowl on New Year’s every game next season. We want that kind of excitement in Huskie Stadium for every home game we play.”
Jeff Compher, NIU associate vice president and director of Athletics, said that the Huskie football program has become a proven success on the field and in the classroom, and the emphasis going forward will be to build on the school’s historic Orange Bowl berth.
“The team has done its part, they’ve won games, won championships and taken us to a BCS bowl game,” Compher said. “Now we need to continue to grow the support for this team. To all the NIU fans who had a great time cheering on the Huskies and showing their school spirit in Miami, we need you in Huskie Stadium in 2013. Building the fan base and increasing attendance at our home games is the next step in sustaining our success.”
Northern Illinois will hold its 2013 Kickoff event for all fans, including Huskie Athletic Support Fund members, season ticket holders and prospective season ticket holders, Saturday, March 2, at the NIU Convocation Center.
Anyone interested in receiving more information on 2013 football season tickets should contact Cliff Bottigliero, director of sales, at (815) 753-1292 or via e-mail at [email protected]. Complete information on the March 2 event will be sent out as soon as details are finalized.
The Huskies finished 2012 12-2 and ranked in the final Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Top 25 for the first time in school history.
NIU returns eight starters on offense and four on defense in 2013, including All-American Jordan Lynch at quarterback. Lynch set three NCAA records in his first season leading the Huskie offense and became the first quarterback in FBS history to pass for 3,000 and rush for more than 1,500 in a season. He finished with 4,953 yards of total offense with 1,815 rushing and 3,138 passing yards while throwing for 25 touchdowns and rushing for 19.