Something golden will lurk amid all the red and black inside Huskie Stadium during NIU’s 108th Homecoming football game Saturday.
The 4-1 Huskies, who have notched 50 FBS wins since 2010, will play Central Michigan for the 50th time.
And, with NIU looking to push its second-in-the-nation win total to 51, maybe it’s no coincidence that 51 weeks have passed since the last time these two team met – a Huskie road victory that saw Jordan Lynch set an NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback.
“It’s going to be a big boy slugfest,” Carey says. “It’s one of those games where it comes down to matchups and who wants it more, so I think that’s what we got to do, and we’re anxious to get back on the field and get going. I know I am because we want to get better. That’s the biggest thing we want to do is get better.”
Fans should expect a “four-quarter fight,” offensive lineman Levon Myers confirms.
“Every week, we know we got a target on our back in this conference,” Myers says. “We’re going to get every team’s best shot, and we like the challenge. We love going out there and taking the team’s best shot.”
Game time is 4 p.m. All students are admitted FREE with their NIU One Cards.
Although Central Michigan leads the overall series 25-23-1, the Huskies own a 14-9-1 edge in their home stadium. NIU, which has taken the last two contests versus the Chippewas, have won 24 straight Mid-American Conference regular season games.
Coming off a close 17-14 win over Kent State last weekend, Carey says the defense and special teams played well. He wasn’t “surprised” by the uncharacteristic offensive showing, though, and knows that his team could have performed better.
“I don’t know if ‘surprised’ is ever the right word, because then it makes it seem like you think you’re invincible. We’re not,” he says, “and I wasn’t surprised so much as maybe, in some cases, disappointed that it wasn’t going the way that I thought it could.”
“We really didn’t get the job done,” wide receiver Aregeros Turner says.
“We expected to have more points than we did as an offense, to have more rushing yards, more passing yards, everything. It’s just not what we’re used to,” he adds. “We left a lot of points out there by mistakes like jumping offsides or dropped balls. You just got to make sure that every time we get to the red zone we score a touchdown, so that’s what we try to do instead of kick field goals.”
Players are eager to get back to the field, the coach says, but they understand that practice comes first. That means not only an emphasis on the fundamentals but the game plan as well.
“You can’t just show up and think it’s going to happen,” Carey says. “There are some tangible things that we need to get better at today. This isn’t a situation where you have a little magic pixie dust that wipe over their heads and here we go, we have tangible things we have to do today.”
That said, “you never ever discount winning and we didn’t and we won’t ever do that because winning is winning, by one or by 50, it doesn’t matter,” the coach adds. “There were a lot of things to correct on this film, and so there were times when the feeling wasn’t real good watching the film, but you don’t lose the 10,000-foot view of you still won.”
Challenges from the Chippewas include an aggressive defense that returned all four starters, a tough running back in Thomas Rawls who Carey says is perhaps as good as his counterparts at Arkansas, and “difference maker” Titus Davis, “one of the finest wide outs in the conference if not the country.”
“They’re a very talented group of receivers who like to compete, and they play real hard. They block well,” cornerback Mayomi Olootu says. “We are just going to play our game like we do — practice hard and … just going to get ready for them.”
Fans who can’t make it Saturday can watch all the action on ESPN3 or listen to the play-by-play on AM 560 WIND from Chicago or WCPT 92.5 FM from DeKalb. For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.