DeKALB – Before Wednesday’s game against Toledo, Northern Illinois’ seniors, the winningest class in school history, were honored at Huskie Stadium.
After junior quarterback Jordan Lynch took the final kneel-down of the game, the Huskies had beaten the Rockets 31-24 – the third consecutive season NIU has defeated its rival school. The win clinched the school’s third MAC West title in a row. It was the Huskies’ 10th consecutive victory, their 21st consecutive win at Huskie Stadium and their 15th consecutive conference win.
After the MAC championship game, NIU will go to a bowl game for the fifth consecutive season.
The senior class has lost just one game at Huskie Stadium, a 34-31 defeat at the hands of Idaho on Sept. 26, 2009.
Defensive end Alan Baxter, who finished Wednesday’s game with four tackles and 11⁄2 sacks, and the senior class won their 39th game overall. Following the contest, Baxter spoke about the success him and the rest of the Huskies have had in DeKalb, mentioning the three division titles and five bowl games.
“It means that we’re a really good, developed program,” Baxter said. “We’ve been doing it for a long time.”
When Baxter was finished, NIU coach Dave Doeren turned to him and cracked a joke referring to the Huskies’ senior class.
“You need to stay here longer, huh?” said Doeren, prompting a laugh from junior Jordan Lynch and seniors Rashaan Melvin and Martel Moore at the podium.
To NIU’s second-year coach, who already has one MAC title, having sustained success is what makes a program truly great.
Other schools in the conference have had success for certain periods over the past decade. But NIU has been the most consistent program over the time period – and a dominant team in the conference the past three seasons.
“I think any time you can share sustained success, that’s a measure of a great program. When you go there, then you’re absent for a while, then you go back – that’s good, but to be a great program, you have to have sustained success,” Doeren said. “This program, for the last decade, is the winningest program in the conference. To be in this game coming up, three years in row, says a lot.
“To have 10 wins, now three years in a row – hoping to get to 11 obviously – that’s what you want as a football program. To do it, at the same time with the academic success and the facilities, there are a lot of great things going on here right now.”
NIU’s win against Toledo could also mean a coveted national ranking. The Huskies were just outside the Top-25 in both major polls this week. That could change when the newest polls are released Sunday.
Doeren said his team deserves the honor.
“Absolutely. I think we should have been ranked last week. I think we’re a very good football team,” he said. “I think when you have all the streaks we have it’s not a deal where you can say we’re a flash-in-the-pan program. And I think that’s what you have to do [if you’re a mid-major], you have to win, win, win and keep winning. And that’s what we’ve done. I think we deserve that attention, I think these players deserve that attention.”