With a fourth consecutive Mid-American Conference Championship berth sewn up, the 1-10 Western Michigan Broncos coming to town Tuesday night and a No. 14 ranking in the BCS, there are some who might assume that NIU football coach Rod Carey is already thinking post-season.
Those people are wrong.
“There is no ‘next game.’ This is the only game we’ve got. It’s right here, right now. All hands on deck,” Carey says.
“It’s going to be a challenge. It’s a team that you can’t take lightly at this time of the year because, no matter what a team’s struggles are through the course of a year, you get to this time of the year and you see improvement,” he adds. “It’s a big game for us. It will be the last home game here in Huskie Stadium for the seniors, and the last one of the year. It’ll be a big day all around, from every aspect and every angle that you can think about.”
NIU’s seniors, including QB Jordan Lynch and safety Jimmie Ward, are the most-winning class in school history with a winning percentage of .900 with an overall record of 45-8 and 22-0 at home. The Huskies lead the FBS nation with their 25 consecutive home wins.
Ward is eager to conclude his Huskie Stadium residency with perfection by keeping that streak intact.
“I’ve been wanting this since high school. I almost did it in high school. My senior year – the fifth game or sixth game – we lost,” Ward says. “To finally get it in college is phenomenal. I can’t even express the happiness I feel inside. I know the whole team will be very happy, too.”
Meanwhile, tailback Cameron Stingily only needs 42 rushing yards to cross into four figures; should he accomplish that, he and Lynch would become the first NIU duo to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. (Lynch already has tallied 1,434 yards on the ground this fall.)
“It would mean a lot. I would go down in the history books. I wanted to something like this in high school, but I never got the opportunity to do it,” Stingily says. “Now that I have the opportunity, I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
So, c’mon, Huskie fans!
Kickoff is 6 p.m. – and, as always, ALL NIU STUDENTS ARE ADMITTED FREE WITH THEIR NIU OneCARDS.
Carey’s undefeated Huskies climbed to No. 14 in the latest BCS standings and are ranked 17th (Harris), 18th (Associated Press) and 20th (USA Today Coaches). They’re also one of only four 11-0 teams in the nation and the ONLY non-AQ school with 11 wins.
Despite those numbers, the boss sees room for improvement.
“We have yet to play our best football,” Carey says. “We have not put together 60 minutes of the Huskie football that we think we’re capable of yet.”
Beyond the #MACtion, fans at the Tuesday night game have an opportunity to make a difference … and win a trip.
The NIU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is conducting a canned food drive in conjunction with Tuesday night’s game and has been throughout the community this week collecting cans and other non-perishable foods.
In exchange, anyone who provides a donation receives a voucher good for a $10 ticket to the WMU game. The NIU Interfraternity Council and DeKalb elementary schools have also been participating in the canned food and voucher exchange. To donate at the game and receive a $10 ticket voucher, bring a canned food item to one of the five kettle bells located on the west side of Huskie Stadium between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, one lucky Huskie student will win a one-week trip for two to Hawaii during the fourth quarter. Names will be drawn based on OneCards swiped at the gates on the East Side, and the winner must be present to claim the prize.