Created:Monday, December 24, 2012 11:00 p.m.CDT
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Season of giving

By STEVE NITZ - snitz@shawmedia.com
Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch (right) holds out the ball for wide receiver Tommylee Lewis at Wednesday’s practice at the DeKalb Recreation Center. (Kyle Bursaw — kbursaw@shawmedia.com)

It’s been a pretty good Christmas season, to say the least, for Northern Illinois football fans.

The Huskies have just kept on giving, with a 12-1 season, second consecutive Mid-American Conference Championship and Orange Bowl appearance.

Here’s a list of some of the presents Northern Illinois fans have received, from the ones under the tree to the few lumps of coal (something Huskies fans didn’t get a lot of this season).

PRESENTS UNDER THE TREE
The way the dominoes fell
Sure, the Huskies had a great season. But if it weren’t for the ineptitude of the Big East and Ohio State’s postseason ban, NIU wouldn’t be in the Orange Bowl. Luckily, the Huskies were able to finish ahead of both the Big East and Big Ten conference champions to earn their BCS berth.

Jordan Lynch Who saw this coming? Most people didn’t think the junior quarterback would be able to replicate Chandler Harnish’s production, but he’s been able to do that, and then some.

Lynch led the Football Bowl Subdivision with 4,733 yards of total offense, and already has broken the FBS record for rushing yards in a season by a quarterback with 1,771.

NIU fans have been spoiled being able to watch Harnish and Lynch back-to-back.

The offensive line Heading into the season, NIU had to worry about finding four new starters up front. Then, starting center Logan Pegram suffered a season-ending leg injury in preseason practice.

However, the unit performed way above expectations in 2012, and finished the season ranked third in the MAC with just 14 sacks allowed.

STOCKING STUFFERS
NIU’s 18th-ranked scoring defense
This group had a lot of talent coming back heading into the season. The defense still probably exceeded most people’s expectations, giving up just 19 points a game and 357 yards per contest.

Fans are going to miss seniors like defensive ends Alan Baxter and Sean Progar, defensive tackle Nabal Jefferson, linebacker Tyrone Clark, safety Demetrius Stone and cornerback Rashaan Melvin.

Lack of injuries Sure, Pegram going down was a big loss, even though the offensive line was able to overcome it. The group also lost left tackle Tyler Loos during the Toledo game. In addition, players like wide receiver Perez Ashford and linebacker Victor Jacques missed some time. But other than that, the Huskies have had the good fortune of limited injuries, which is big for any team in winning a championship.

LUMPS OF COAL
Dave Doeren’s dash to Raleigh
It wasn’t too shocking to see Doeren take another job, and nobody can blame him. However, there was the thought he could stick in DeKalb for another season with a lot of talent coming back, and have even better opportunities in 2013.

Who knows, maybe Doeren is kicking himself. He may never coach in a BCS game at N.C. State, something he would have had the chance to do New Year’s Day. He also probably would have been a candidate for the Wisconsin job had he stuck around a few more days.

Fan support at Soldier Field Iowa has a lot of alumni in the Chicago area, and it wasn’t surprising at all to see the majority of the crowd wearing black and yellow at Soldier Field. However, the crowd was at least 75 percent Iowa fans.

Maybe it was because NIU had played against Wisconsin at Soldier Field in 2011. I’m sure the true Huskie fans would like to have seen more support in Chicago. Would it have made a difference in the game? Who knows, but I figured there would be more NIU fans in attendance.

Did you like the new Huskie Bowl format?
Yes
No