"Its like being in the I-AA playoffs. We're in the playoffs right now. This is the first game of the playoffs. Every game is important. If we want to have the chance to compete for a conference championship, and Ohio is saying the same thing [we need to win this game]. One of us will advance, and one of us will be still trying to win the next game. It will be a darn important game, it just won't be for the conference championship." - Head Coach Jerry Kill
Saturday, November 21st at
high noon 1 PM, two 7-3 teams will step in to Peden Stadium in Athens, OH and only one will come out with the opportunity to play in the MAC Championship. The stakes are high. One loss and you won't make it to the next round against Central Michigan.
After being burned so many times in recent years, the typical Northern Illinois Huskie fan would off the cuff tell you that we're not going to win this game. It's only suitable through all the painful losses that we've talked about over and over again in great detail.
Ohio is a good team with a good record that we should be able to beat on the road. NIU doesn't have much of a chance in "those" games. It's a natural instinct at this point.
Just even to have a chance at getting to the championship is something to be proud of. It's a task that hasn't even been thought much of ever since Garrett Wolfe's senior year in 2006. NIU was far and away the favorite to win the MAC West with their powerful offensive rushing attack. After a losing to the #1 team in the nation in Ohio State to open the season, guess who came to town?
The Ohio Bobcats traveled to Dekalb for an extremely early MAC opener. Wolfe didn't disappoint rushing for 196 yds and 2 TDs, but the Huskie defense was overwhelmed as Ohio exploded with 509 total yds offensively. At the time, Huskie fans were all over the defensive coordinators and how much our secondary played off of receivers.
The result was an annihilation through the air by Ohio QB Austen Everson going 23 of 31 for 322 yds and 3 TDs. It was the classic case of just making more big plays as two of the scores were for over 50 yds. RB Kalvin McRae had 209 total yds on the ground and through the air and 3 TDs.
They even gave us the ball twice on the ground. Having to come back from a deficit for the majority of the 2nd half, Horvath passed for 41 passes, completing only 19. They were able to figure out to not stop, but contain Wolfe so that he couldn't burn the Bobcats all day long.
Garrett Wolfe: Bobcat suplex specialist
The following players are still playing from that team: LB Cory Hanson - Started with 8 tackles, DE Brandon Bice - 1 TFL, C Eddie Adamski - Started, FS David Bryant, RB Justin Anderson, LB Spencer Williamson, RB Ricky Crider, LB John Tranchitella and WR Preston Williams all played as well.
That one loss continues to sting after all these years, signifying how much those Huskie teams didn't live up to their true potential because of a lousy defense and inconsistent offense. The shocking losses at home eventually built up and started discouraging fans to attend games at Huskie Stadium. The thought was that if you were going to be disappointed by the performance on the field, why attend the games?
Sure the Huskie hardcore were going to keep going, but a lot of the casual fans detracted and we have to build this team back up again.
OK, so get this:
At his short time at Northern, Coach Kill HAS NEVER BEATEN A TEAM WITH A WINNING RECORD
In 2008, his biggest win was over a 6-6 Bowling Green. Right now, Big 10 foe Purdue is only 4-7 and WMU has a slim chance at making a bowl at 5-6 currently.
This game in Athens is not only the most important conference game since '06, but is Kill's most important game of his short D-I career. If we somehow lose this game, then his decisions will be criticized until no end this entire off-season.
The "what-could-have-been" is not something that I want to spend the rest of November and December focusing on. The time is now for Coach Kill and the Huskies to do something that Huskie fans haven't seen much of these past few years:
Beat a quality team that we "should beat" and stay in the MAC West race right until the end.
No pressure on the Kill man though:
"This is a heck of a deal. This is what you work for. There's no pressure; this is fun. This is why you work. I tell them to go out and have fun. We're playing for in November. There are a lot of teams right now that aren't playing for anything. This is a good opportunity for us to continue to improve our program. I'm excited about it."