It’s going to be Senior Night on Wednesday when Northern Illinois takes on Toledo in another Mid-American Conference West showdown in DeKalb.
NIU is hoping for a sellout crowd of 24,000 at Huskie Stadium in the final home game of the season to help honor the winningest class in school history,
“For it to be sold out would be a big deal, especially with it being Senior Night,” said senior linebacker Tyrone Clark. “Competing for the MAC West title, it all goes hand in hand.”
It seems as if it always comes down to NIU and Toledo for the MAC West crown.
“I feel like the road to the MAC championship always travels through one of us,” said Toledo junior running back David Fluellen, who leads the nation in rushing with 1,381 yards.
The 13 NIU seniors are 38-13 for a winning percentage of .745, including last year’s 63-60 win at Toledo. They are 21-1 at home with the nation’s longest winning streak at 20.
“For us, that’s the most important part of the week is the most winningest class in NIU football history gets to go out on the field at night on national television and play,” said Huskies coach Dave Doeren. “We’ll do everything we can as a coaching staff and as a football team to send them out the right way.”
A sellout crowd would be a great thing for the university, according to Doeren, particularly with the game televised nationally on ESPN2.
“It means a lot for our seniors and I think they deserve it, to be honest with you,” Doeren said “When you put a body of work together like our seniors have, these guys are going to have five bowl rings. They deserve a sellout and I don’t think that is asking too much from our fans and our students.
“I know everyone has things to do and it’s a weeknight, I get it. It takes a lot out of a person’s life to give up three hours to come over here, but these kids give a lot too, and I would love for them to be rewarded with everybody’s presence.
“It’s obviously good for football and recruiting, but you know for the university to show that kind of school pride, I think it says a lot about everybody,” Doeren said. “It’s a brand. It’s NIU football. It’s the university. There are commercials about the university. It’s ESPN’s presence, all those things. You don’t get better advertising than national television for four hours.”
Toledo coach Matt Campbell certainly expects an electric atmosphere.
“I’m sure their students are going to be out and ready to rock and roll,” Campbell said. “Winning creates that. Winning football games has created a great buzz at their university and a great buzz for their program on home games. That’s one of the things they have going for them.”
The Huskies’ best chance to win is to contain Fluellen, which is easier said than done.
“We try to put a major emphasis on stopping the run,” Clark said. “I got a chance to see their game and watch film. He’s a good back. I give him credit for what he does, but as a defense, we focus on us.”
A 10th straight win would send NIU to the MAC championship game Nov. 30 in Detroit for the third straight year no matter what happens in its season finale at Eastern Michigan.
“When you can be a program that sustains excellence that says a lot,” Doeren said. “NIU has been the winningest football program for a decade, obviously. But you mark, at least we do, success by winning your side of the division. To say that we have done that three years in a row is a big deal.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.