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NIU doesn’t have letdown against EMU

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(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
Northern Illinois defensive back Jimmie Ward celebrates his interception during the second quarter of the Huskies’ 31-24 victory over Toledo on Nov. 14 at Huskie Stadium.

YPSILANTI, Mich. – Northern Illinois wasn’t going to have a letdown Friday.

The Huskies entered the game at Eastern Michigan as heavy favorites, just as they have many times this season.

Once again, NIU showed why it’s going to the Mid-American Conference Championship game, and the Eagles showed why they finished another losing season. The Huskies team that stepped on the field certainly didn’t look like one taking a two-win opponent lightly, and it was apparent in NIU’s 49-7 win.

“It’s the only team I’ve been around, we never look to the next week,” quarterback Jordan Lynch said.

“We’re focused on this week. It was their senior day, it’s their last game,” Lynch said. “They we’re going to come out playing hard, they were physical. They were starting to hit us a little bit out there.”

Huskies coach Dave Doeren talked to his team about the possibility of a trap game, after NIU’s MAC West-clinching victory Nov. 14 over Toledo.

After Friday’s win, Doeren talked about how his team had plenty to play for. No team in school history had won 11 games in the regular season before.

“We talked about [the possibility of a letdown]. I told them after an emotional win and a championship to come and a game that really had no factor in us getting there, it would be a natural week to have a letdown, and we talked about not having one, and what we really did is talked about what we really need to get out of winning,” Doeren said after the win. “No team’s ever had 11 wins in the regular season at NIU and our seniors have talked all along about leaving their legacy. And so that was the focus, was getting that 11th win.”

NIU’s second-year coach also mentioned some of the individual milestones certain players accomplished in Ypsilanti, such as senior Martel Moore’s gaining more than 1,000 yards receiving and Lynch rushing for more than 100 yards for the 10th consecutive game, extending his NCAA record for quarterbacks.

Friday’s game wasn’t the only time this season NIU went into a contest as heavy favorites. When the MAC schedule started to really get going, it was clear NIU and Toledo were on a collision course for a showdown to decide the division title.

That didn’t phase the Huskies, who rolled through teams like Buffalo, Western Michigan and Massachusetts fairly easily. NIU hasn’t shown signs of letting down all season.

“The coaches do a good job with us all week,” senior linebacker Tyrone Clark said. “We understand the week-to-week plan. ... A lot of stuff is still riding on this game that we didn’t want to let past us.”

Friday, NIU will finally be able to step on the turf at Ford Field in Detroit, which has been a goal all season. Kent State, a team ranked in both polls, could very well be the best team the Huskies have faced all season.

“It’s football. We’re up for the challenges,” Clark said. “That’s what the game’s about.”

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