For a college football team about to play only its fourth game of the season, the NIU Huskies already have seen plenty.
Victory in a Big Ten stadium. An early weekend off. A four-hour flight across the country followed by a long bus ride to a hotel and another time-consuming bus ride to not a stadium but a covered dome.
Then, when Coach Rod Carey and his team finally got to play in their sold-out home stadium, their in-state opponents managed to put 20 unanswered points on the scoreboard before some Huskie fans even found their seats.
Of course, it was Jordan Lynch, Tommylee Lewis, Cameron Stingily and Co. who scored 43 of the contest’s 62 remaining points – protecting not only the now-22-game Huskie Stadium winning streak but the team’s unblemished 2013 record.
After all that, another trip into Big Ten country must seem like a walk in the park – but that’s not the way Carey sees it: Despite its 1-3 record, Purdue is “a fine football team.”
“They could easily be 3-1 too or even 4-0. I mean, they’re right there. Things have kind of happened in the second half that kind of got away from them here and there, but no, they could flip that on its ear,” he said.
“It’s a Big Ten team at their place on Homecoming. It’s going to present every bit of a challenge that you want in a football game,” he added. “We’re going to have to come out and play well to give ourselves an opportunity in the fourth quarter and be where we want to be. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
NIU kicks off with the Boilermakers at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, in Ross-Ade Stadium. Fans who can’t make the drive to West Lafayette can watch the game on ESPN or listen on WSCR 670 AM, WLBK 1360 AM or 98.9 FM.
As the 3-0 Huskies close out their 2013 non-conference slate, they stand as winners of 24 of their last 26 games.
During their amazing come-from-behind performance in last weekend’s game against Eastern Illinois, the team compiled 602 yards of total offense – the 13th highest total in school history. Three hundred and sixty-seven of those yards were gained on the ground.
Quarterback Lynch was named MAC West Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season and sixth time in his career after racking up 424 yards of total offense.
Linebacker Boomer Mays is excited for the team’s opportunity for two Big Ten wins in less than a month.
“We always look forward to the dog bone victories, the bone yard games. To get two in one season, that’s always what we shoot for,” Mays said. “They’ve got a big offensive line, like most Big Ten teams have. They like to run the ball a lot. They’ve got a fast back. They’ve got good wide receivers.”
“It would be great,” tight end Luke Eakes agreed. “It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for awhile, and it’s the next game so it’s a must win for us, to keep the streak going.”
NIU and Purdue have met only once before, on Sept. 19, 2009; the Huskies won that road game, 28-21.
What’s more, neither Heisman Trophy candidate Lynch nor running back Stingily were on the team then.
Stingily rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns last weekend.
“He’s 240 pounds and runs people over,” Carey said. “He’s a guy that’s played two or three different positions – been a special teams guy, didn’t really know his role – and all of sudden here he is. He’s kind of shocked by it all, but I kept telling him, ‘Cam, keep doing what you’re doing,’ and I don’t think he believed me until we got playing games.”
“I’d say he runs like a linebacker. He wants to run through people,” Eakes added. “He’s very physical and hard to stop once he gets his momentum going.”
And, to those NIU fans who wish the team would start quicker, know that Carey shares that desire: “I wish I had a magic potion that handled all of that, but I don’t,” he said.
“It’s about the little things. It’s about the small detailed little things you have to do,” he added. “You have to concentrate on the snap count, you have to concentrate on the depth of your route, you have to concentrate on your double team and ID’ing the front when you are on offense. Defense, you have to communicate the call, you have to get yourself lined up. Linebackers have to get the front lined up; you have to get down in your stance quicker.”
For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.