DeKALB – When Northern Illinois players’ put on all their gear Saturday, they will do so in a pink locker room.
That’s correct, Kinnick Stadium’s visiting locker room is pink.
Legendary Hawkeyes head coach Hayden Fry wanted the visiting locker room that way because he thought it would put the away team in more of a passive mood.
NIU’s players know about the locker rooms they’ll be getting ready in Saturday.
“I guess it’s cute, I guess,” cornerback Sean Evans joked when asked what he thought about the locker room.
The bigger concern for the Huskies will be when they actually take the field, in a stadium which is generally considered a tough place to play in. The Hawkeye fanbase is a passionate one, and the stands are also very close to the sidelines. NIU head coach Rod Carey knows about Kinnick from experience. He visited the venue when he played at Indiana.
“It’s not just the building, but the people in it. They’ve got a great fanbase, they do their homework on their opponents,” Carey said. “They’re right on top of you. It’s a small sideline, so they’re right on top of you. Even the end zones are right on top of you. It’s a great college football venue, I can tell you that.”
One thing NIU has been doing in practice is putting a large speaker behind quarterback Jordan Lynch and the offense. It’s blaring either loud music or the Iowa fight song.
“Just being a Big Ten school it’s got a lot of tradition. With that comes a ton of fans, a ton of allegiance that they owe to Iowa,” Evans said. “Just with our preparation throughout practice and fall camp we’ve tried to make the environment of the practice field match, as best as we could with loud music and crazy, fast tempo from our offense. We’re expecting a pretty loud, noisy game.”
It’s not like NIU hasn’t been in big-time environments before. The Huskies played in a BCS bowl last year, after all. The seniors have also played at Iowa State, Illinois, Minnesota and Kansas.
Carey pointed out that there’s still a lot of new players and the coaching staff has made them aware of what they’re walking into.
“You’ve got so many new faces, you don’t ever say ‘well we’ve been there, done that,’ “ Carey said. “This is Iowa, they’ve got awesome fans and a great college environment, and you’ve got new faces, and you’ve got to take that seriously and prepare.”