Daily Chronicle sports editor John Sahly and sports reporter Ryan Wood spend their days covering the area's sports scene. Occasionally, they give their viewpoints on those local sports. In this installment of their 2011 Take 2 column, they discuss today's NIU-Central Michigan game.
Sahly: No doubt about it, Ryan, this is a big week for the Huskies, who want to start out Mid-American Conference play strong at Central Michigan. You've been to Mt. Pleasant, Mich., before. What makes Kelly-Shorts Stadium such a tough place to play?
Wood: It's a rarity in the conference. Unlike a lot of MAC venues, Kelly-Shorts Stadium is closed at one end. And Central Michigan takes advantage of that, sticking its student section right next to the end zone.
It gets loud on that side. And very rowdy. Running backs coach Eddie Faulkner, who spent the past eight years at Ball State, relived his rivalry with the Chippewas earlier this week. He told me about a time when one of the Cardinals receivers caught a touchdown pass and was heading into the end zone. As he was running – during the play – students began throwing snowballs at him. I was at the stadium covering that game, and remember that moment well.
Really, the atmosphere is just wild. They love their football in Mount Pleasant, and they're not above trying to get in the visitor's head.
Sahly: My experience there is the morning after Thanksgiving in 2009 for an NIU-CMU game. Slightly different atmosphere, kind of a mostly-barren, half-awake stadium. But hey, that ESPN deal is working out great for the MAC.
So I guess the question is, how does NIU block out the distractions in what potentially is a difficult place to play?
Wood: You hit the key word: potentially. The one time I was there – Ball State versus Central Michigan in 2008 – was a matchup that had been talked about every single day since the end of the season. It was very comparable to NIU's upcoming game against Toledo on Nov. 1.
Today is most definitely not that. It's also not the morning after Thanksgiving, either. I expect it to be somewhere in the middle.
I'm sure NIU will prepare for the atmosphere to be rowdy. The bigger challenge, I think, is if the environment is a little dead. I mean, it's Mount Pleasant. As I wrote earlier this week, nobody in their right mind wants to travel there. Where will the Huskies pull their energy from, John?
Sahly: From Detroit, I imagine. That's where NIU wants to end up, and that should be all the Huskies need to get ready for this one.