Some Perspective: Managing Expectations

Stop crying and put away your emo albums.  It's time for a reality check.

Yes I read the message boards occasionally to feel out how fans are feeling about the team.  Most of them I saw out of the corner of my eye were something along the lines of "OMG this is teh worst loss ever!"

Pretty mindless and knee-jerk.  I like this one though that was posted by somebody who I actually know pretty well and spent all 4 years of school with:
Pretty soon someone will come along and say this loss is no big deal because "MAC games are all that matter." Every freakin year we lose a non-conference game that we shouldn't have lost or we lose early in the MAC season. I'm sick of being told to calm down... Every time NIU Football looks like it's going somewhere and I get my hopes up they lose. EVERY. FREAKIN. TIME.

This is why it's so damn hard hard to get students excited about the Huskies. You spend all week trying to build some hype to everyone you know about how big it was to win at Purdue. You tell them that you don't just have to watch ESPN to see good football.. It's right here in front of your face and it's your OWN UNIVERSITY. Then when you finally convince a few people to pay attention BAM they get smacked in the face by Idaho. Ida-freakin-ho. No disrespect. Are they a good football team? Yes, no doubt. But when your average sports fan hears Idaho, they think WIN.

Rant over, beer drinking commence!
The one thing I can tell you:
I've been through more gut-wrenching, rip-out-your-heart-through-your-chest, painful, excruciating, sick-to-your-stomach NIU losses that you can shake a stick at.  You name it, I've been there.  Most of them were worse than this one, trust me.

2005 - Preseason Consensus: 2nd in the MAC West

Result: 7-5, 1st in the MAC West (tie), no bowl game

  • The season starts off with a turnover-induced mediocre showing in Ann Arbor against the Michigan Wolverines losing 17-33.  OK. 
  • We go in to the week after that and get started early against the Northwestern Wildcats.  We decide to try for the 2-pt conversion and fail, losing 38-37.  The first of many wins that went right through our fingers. 
  • Then 2 weeks later, we lose @ Akron in an offensive explosion 42-48.  No harm, no foul. 
  • 4 weeks after that, the Huskies take on a 1-6 Ball State team and lose 17-31.  That was a flat-out embarrassing loss with visibly no effort by the players.  I can still hear the fans booing at half time it was such a bad performance. 
  • We eventually win the West and make it to the MAC Championship where we lose to Akron in the final seconds 30-31.  Yes, Akron beat us twice that season.  Utter despair, my friends.  A season of heartbreak and disappointment.

2006 - Preseason Consensus: 1st in the MAC West

Result: 7-6, 3rd in the MAC West (tie), 7-37 loss to TCU in Poinsettia Bowl

  • This was supposed to be that year we were going to get that long-eluded MAC Championship trophy.  Garrett Wolfe explodes against Ohio State, but we lose badly 12-35. 
  • MAC play started early the week after that as the Ohio Bobcats came to Huskie Stadium.  They flat-out beat our butts 23-35 IN OUR OWN HOUSE and the crowd was shocked and spurned by this development.
  • 5 weeks later we roll in to Kalamazoo and the Broncos single-handily ended whatever hopes Garrett Wolfe had at winning the Heisman Trophy holding #1 in check as we lost 14-16.
  • 3 weeks after that was the infamous fog game, where unusual play-calling by the Huskie offense gave the Rockets a 17-13 victory in Dekalb.  I still don't understand why our best player in Wolfe wasn't getting carries at the end of that one. 
  • The projected best team doesn't make it to the MACC (CMU did) and gets pummeled in a bowl game against a severely underrated Horned Frog squad.  Not the kind of season people were hoping for in Dekalb.
And there went all of the seasons of great expectations.  Want to know where NIU was projected the years after that?

2007 - Preseason Consensus: 5th in the MAC West

Result: 2-10, 6th in the MAC West, losses to Southern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Temple, Western Michigan & Ball State  all by a TD or less

2008 - Preseason Consensus: 5th in the MAC West

Result: 6-7, 4th in the MAC West, 10-17 loss to Louisiana Tech in Independence Bowl.  Losses to Minnesota, Western Michigan, Tennessee & Central Michigan all by a TD or less

2009 - Preseason Consensus: 5th in the MAC West

Result: TBA

Previous years: 2004 - 2nd, 2003 - 1st, 2002 - 3rd

There you have it.  I really don't know what exactly our fans expect this season, but there was a lot of excitement after almost coming back against Wisconsin and then beating Purdue.  The win at Purdue was nice and all and it really broke through some of the big-time barriers such as beating a Big 10 or a BCS team.  That really was a snapshot of what this team can become in the future.

So this leaves us with a lot of questions:

How good is Idaho?  I sure as hell will be rooting for them all season, along with Wisconsin.

Was this game just a blemish?  Were we holding back?  There were several players that could have played in this game, but didn't.  How good is Purdue?  How high is the ceiling on this year's team?  What lies ahead in MAC play?

The best thing you can do as a fan right now is go to the games, sit back, watch and support your Huskies.  16,320 people at Huskie Stadium is an embarrassment.  But so was the defense on Saturday.

Let them lay low, so they can come out of nowhere and give teams the smackdown.  That's what I would do.  So what if Idaho isn't a household name?  They looked damn good and should have a great season.  Just lower your expectations a little bit and watch these players develop.  Last time I checked this was only Coach Kill's 2nd year here.  If you don't want him, he'll leave:

"Through my lifetime, I've had a lot of ups and downs. I've always learned one thing: If you work hard and you prepare well, there will be another week and you'll be all right," Kill said. "And I think our kids will. If they don't then they need to get somebody else in here and I don't have a problem with that either.

"If I can't get it out of them, then they should probably get somebody else in here. They won't ever have to fire me here. I'll give them the [darn] money back. I'll go live in a cottage."

End rant.  I'm actually happy we lost against Idaho.  Now we get to see what this team looks like when it's backed up in to a corner.  It wasn't MAC play, so I'll take that shot if it means greater things for the future.

Again, the #1 goal for this team IS THE MAC CHAMPIONSHIP.  Nothing else will replace this.

It's time for some revenge against the WMU Broncos on Homecoming this Saturday!

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