KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Mathew Sims warmed up before Saturday’s 48-34 win at Western Michigan, using the same routine he does every week.
This time, Northern Illinois’ junior kicker was in a different setting. Waldo Stadium was a better environment for Sims, who didn’t have to deal with the swirling winds he’s used to working with at Huskie Stadium.
He thought the weather was great, not as windy as it usually is in DeKalb. Before the game, Sims had his usual meeting with head coach Dave Doeren, telling NIU’s second-year coach where he would be comfortable kicking from.
Sims was hitting from 50-plus yards in warmups, and told his coach he would be able to make a kick from about 55 yards. With time winding down in the second quarter and the Huskies trailing by seven points, Doeren figured he would give his kicker a shot at a 54-yard field goal.
Despite the fact Sims’ career-high field goal coming into the game was 44 yards, Doeren wanted a chance at some points. He figured a long field goal from Sims was a better option than trying a Hail Mary into the end zone.
The gamble worked. Sims’ attempt just barely sailed over the uprights giving him not only a career-longest, but a school-record kick. The previous record was 52 yards, held by Steve Azar and Chris Nendick. Sims would kick a 49-yarder in the fourth quarter, passing his previous career-high twice in the same game.
Sims said he’s hit the ball better in the past, but he got his 54-yarder good enough.
“I knew it had a chance. It wasn’t, honestly, that good of a hit, I cut it a little bit, but the wind helped it, carried it in,” Sims said. “It was definitely a good hit. It wouldn’t have gone in if it wasn’t, but it wasn’t one of my best hits.”
After Sims’ first kick, the Huskies rolled off 28 unanswered points at one point in the second half, putting the Broncos away.
The win was NIU’s eighth consecutive victory overall, its 13th consecutive Mid-American Conference win (the longest conference winning streak in the country) and its seventh consecutive road victory. Overall, the Huskies’ dismantling of Western Michigan was also their 17th win in the last 18 contests.
Doeren thought Sims’ big kick had an effect on his team’s momentum entering the second half.
“It helped. I wasn’t sure he could get it there, but I didn’t want to throw it incomplete and walk in with no points either. So, any time you can get a [scoring] play,” Doeren said. “Last week Jordan [Lynch] scored right before the half. Just to get three points going in, to have something positive to talk about [was big]. Because it wasn’t a very positive first half for us.”