NIU-Toledo puts MAC West title on the line
It would be unfair to expect Northern Illinois and Toledo to match last year's classic game at the Glass Bowl, which the Huskies won 63-60 on quarterback Chandler Harnish's sixth touchdown pass with 19 seconds to play.
According to ESPNU, it was ranked as the 19th best game of the season. It gave NIU the Mid-American Conference West title and sent them to the MAC championship game in Detroit.
The two teams meet again Wednesday night at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb with another MAC West title on the line (8 p.m. ESPN2/ WSCR 670-AM).
The Huskies are 9-1 and looking for their 10th straight win while Toledo is 8-2 and coming off a loss to Ball State.
"Last year, that game was a pretty storied game," said NIU coach Dave Doeren. "We know what kind of players are in it and how explosive both teams can be.
"I'm just glad we got the W and that is all that mattered last year. I know they felt the same way. I don't think either team's defense did what they were supposed to do in that contest, and the offenses did everything."
The game, with its national TV audience, features two of the best players in the conference in NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch and Toledo running back David Fluellen.
Although Northern Illinois did not play, Lynch went last weekend leading the nation in total yards with 3,517 and has had a hand in 35 touchdowns (19 passing and 16 rushing).
Fluellen rushed for 200 yards in last week's 34-27 loss to Ball State and is averaging almost 6 yards per carry.
"We can't let (Fluellen) control the tempo of the football game," Doeren said. "He's a really good football player."
NIU continues to push Lynch for the Heisman Trophy, but that is the last thing on the junior's mind.
"I feel like that's just stuff for the banquet, stuff for after the season," Lynch said. "Our main goal is to just get the victory. All those stats and everything, that stuff is not possible without my teammates, without coach (Rod) Carey and coach (Bob) Cole. They put me in the right situation at the right times.
"I always set high expectations for myself, so you know, it's sort of surreal having all this talk and everything. But just like I said, the main focus is just getting the victory."
The Toledo game is always the biggest on the Huskies' schedule. Doeren learned that right away.
"I was told the first day on campus when you have your press conference and tons of people walk up to you congratulating you, many of them said 'beat Toledo,' " Doeren said. "So right away it was a big game here."
Toledo has a 29-10 edge in the series with NIU and has won 11 out of 18 games played at Huskie Stadium. The Rockets are 19-3 in their last 22 MAC games and two of those three losses were to NIU.
Huskies nose guard Nabal Jefferson knows all about the importance of this game.
"First of all, the rivalry is just two of the best teams going at it," Jefferson said. "We're both competitors. We like to win, so I think that's what gives us that rivalry feel. Last year was a great game. I was happy to be a part of a game like that."
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