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updated: 11/26/2013 9:15 AM

Unbeaten Huskies shrug off BCS questions

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  • Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch (6) is one of 17 seniors making a final appearance Tuesday at Huskie Stadium. NIU has won 25 straight home games in DeKalb.

      Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch (6) is one of 17 seniors making a final appearance Tuesday at Huskie Stadium. NIU has won 25 straight home games in DeKalb.
    Associated Press

 
By Jack McCarthy
Associated Press

DE KALB -- No. 18 Northern Illinois is looking for a perfect ending to the regular season. The BCS questions can wait.

Northern Illinois is a 35-point favorite Tuesday night against Western Michigan (1-10, 1-6 MAC) but Huskies coach Rod Carey won't let anyone take the week off.

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"All hands on deck," he said. "If they can go, they're going. We treat it just like we have any other game."

Maybe. But a victory would give the Huskies (11-0, 7-0) their first unbeaten regular season since reaching major college status in 1969, and it would extend the nation's longest active home winning streak to 26.

For Northern Illinois seniors playing their final home game, it's a chance to finish their careers unbeaten at home.

"I've been wanting this since high school," said safety Jimmie Ward, who leads the team with 6 interceptions. "I almost did it in high school. My senior year, the fifth or sixth game we lost. (So) to finally get it in college is phenomenal. I can't even express the happiness I feel inside. I know the whole team will be happy too."

The Huskies jumped Fresno State in this week's Bowl Championship Series rankings, the latest twist in their respective bids to be the lone nonautomatic qualifying BCS major bowl entry. Carey shrugs off questions about the school's BSC prospects.

"I don't have a case to make right now because we're not there and we're not in it," he said. "It's that simple. There's absolutely, 100 percent no control over that. What we do have control over is Western Michigan."

Here is a look at what to watch in Tuesday's game:

Lynch finale: The Huskies clinched a MAC title game berth with Wednesday's 35-17 victory at Toledo as quarterback Jordan Lynch scored 3 touchdowns and piled up 362 yards in total offense. Lynch, one of 17 seniors making a final Huskie Stadium appearance, is 23-2 as a starter and accounts for 63.7 percent of NIU's offense with 3,852 yards (sixth nationally) and 39 touchdowns.

Familiar turf: Broncos coach P.J. Fleck makes his first appearance at Huskies Stadium as an opposing coach. A Kaneland High School grad, he starred at Northern Illinois as a wide receiver and then worked three seasons as an assistant coach. Fleck was named Huskie offensive coordinator in February 2012 by then head coach Dave Doeren, then resigned a day later to become receivers coach with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Passing fancy: Northern Illinois receivers Tommylee Lewis and Da'Ron Brown have combined for 1,312 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis leads the Broncos with 64 catches for 913 yards and 6 touchdowns; he also tops the nation's freshmen receivers in seven different offensive categories.

Quarterback Zach Terrell, a fellow freshman, is 120-of-225 for 1,463 yards and 8 touchdowns and 8 interceptions

"I could not be more proud of a group of guys," Fleck said. "We have seven walk-ons who are smaller than me and they made plays and their hearts are beating out of their chest. They've had every right to quit this entire year, and normal teams would have quit. That tells me that the foundation is being built."

Cam can: Huskies' running back Cam Stingily returned from an injury last week and rushed 17 times for 152 yards and now has 985 yards for the season.

"I wouldn't call (Stingily) 100 percent, I don't think anyone is 100 percent at this point," Carey said. "Our depth allowed us to play other guys and take the toll off him and give him a chance to heal up."

MAC title game: Next up for the Huskies is the Dec. 6 MAC championship game against Buffalo or Bowling Green at Detroit's Ford Field. The Huskies have been to the last three MAC championship games and have won two straight.

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