With Northern Illinois aiming for its first Mid-American Conference title since 1983 tonight against Ohio, we take a look back at the highs and lows of the season and how the Huskies arrived at this point.
NIU 51, Western Michigan 22, Oct. 15 at Huskie Stadium
The Broncos entered as one of the MAC West favorites along with the Huskies and Toledo. They left bewildered, shocked and decimated after NIU turned a 15-13 halftime deficit into a complete rout. NIU’s 697 offensive yards was the second-most in school history. NIU’s defense limited first-team all-MAC receiver Jordan White to less than 100 yards receiving.
Central Michigan 48, NIU 41, Oct. 1 at CMU
Tough to pick a lower game than this one. The Huskies got down 17-0 early, gave up 563 yards of offense and looked as bad as they have all season, starting the conference season with a loss to a team that didn’t even end the year eligible for a bowl.
MOST ENTERTAINING GAME
NIU 63, Toledo 60, Nov. 1 at Toledo
Where do you even start with this one that played out in front of a national audience? Harnish threw six touchdown passes, freshman Tommylee Lewis returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, and the game still came down to the final minute. Will Toledo coach Tim Beckman try to use those extra timeouts from his couch tonight?
WORST ON-FIELD MOMENT
Linebacker Jamaal Bass made national headlines when he runs over members of the Toledo band when the team and band got crossed up before the start of the game, resulting in two concussions for band members and an eventual three-game suspension for Bass.
BEST CHANDLER HARNISH PERFORMANCE
Oct. 15 vs. Western Michigan
Harnish became the 11th player in FBS history to throw for 200 yards and run for 200 more in a game. He finished with 229 yards rushing on only 14 carries and threw for 203 yards on 14 completions. The stats speak for themselves.
BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE (NOT-HARNISH DIVISION)
Mathew Sims vs. Ball State, Nov. 15
Statistically, there are better choices here. But we’ll take a game-winning kick in the final seconds to seal a 17-point, second-half comeback. Without that kick, the Huskies could be watching tonight’s game from their dorms.
PREDICTIONS WE’D LIKE BACK, PLEASE
From our HuskieWire.com pregame live blogs...
“A couple of weeks ago, I thought NIU would struggle with one of its final two home games and win in a blowout in the other. Given how last week went, this one would be the blowout. Prediction: NIU 41, Eastern Michigan 10.” – John Sahly
“I expect the Huskies to score plenty of points. The defense will probably play better than last week too, although Wisconsin’s offense is too good to tell. I also wonder how much Badgers coach Bret Bielema will push in the fourth quarter. That said, don’t expect there to be much doubt in the final 15 minutes. Wisconsin 45, NIU 31.” – Ryan Wood
QUESTION WE KEEP WONDERING
What would NIU’s defense look like with linebackers Tyrone Clark and Devon Butler and safety Tracy Wilson?
QUOTE OF THE SEASON, PART I
“One of the coaches said it in there – I can’t remember who it was – but you’re really in the playoffs. If you want to get to Detroit, you’re in the playoffs right now.” – NIU coach Dave Doeren after the loss to Central Michigan.
QUOTE OF THE SEASON, PART II
“Sorry. I’m still a little bit shocked.” – Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder after his team lost, 51-22, to the Huskies.
– Compiled by Daily Chronicle staff
NIU'S FIVE KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Limit turnovers: If Ohio wins, it will likely need to create some turnovers from NIU's offense. The Huskies have taken care of the football this season, their 14 turnovers two shy from fewest in the 13-team MAC. They can't break the trend in the most important game of the season.
2. Composure: This is the game NIU has waited for, talked about, even dreamt about for one year. There will be nerves and jitters. Emotions will be intense. Somehow, the Huskies must treat the biggest game of the year like any other and find some sense of calm.
3. Third-down defense: Similar to Eastern Michigan quarterback Alex Gillett, Ohio sophomore Tyler Tettleton has the ability to pick up third-down conversions running the football. NIU wouldn't mind similar results. The Huskies held the Eagles to 8 of 18 on third down last week.
4. One, two or three? Ohio has three major offensive threats – Tettleton along with running back Donte Harden and receiver LaVon Brazill. It's unlike NIU shuts down all three. If it can take away one option, not only do things get simpler for the Huskies, but it makes the Bobcats less effective because they would be one-dimensional. If all three click, it will be a long night.
5. Special dual: According to the MAC coaches, this game features the two best kickers in the league. Ohio's Matt Weller was voted the Special Teams Player of the Year and an all-MAC second team member. NIU's Mathew Sims is this season's all-MAC first team kicker. Both effectively have kicked crucial game winners for their teams this season. With the Huskies spotted as three-point favorites Thursday night, either could be called upon again.
– Complied by Ryan Wood, firstname.lastname@example.org