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PRACTICE NOTES: New MAC bowl will help NIU recruiting

DeKALB – Jimmie Ward attended bowl games in his hometown of Mobile, Ala. in the past. He even got to play in the Bowl when Northern Illinois defeated Arkansas State in January 2012.

Alabama has added another bowl game for the 2014 season, the Camellia Bowl, which will feature teams from the Mid-American and Sun Belt Conferences.

The bowl game will be the third postseason game in the state of Alabama, in addition to the GoDaddy and Compass (Birmingham) bowls.

“The environment in Alabama is always great for a bowl because there’s always going to be [good] attendance,” Ward said after Tuesday’s practice at Huskie Stadium. “People down there like football. Regardless, I know they’ll fill up the stands.”

At the 2012 Bowl, reported attendance was 38,734 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, which had a listed capacity of 38,888.

NIU also recruits the southern part of Alabama. Ward is one of three players on the Huskies that hail from Mobile. Sophomore cornerback Marlon Moore and freshman running back Jordan Huff also went to high school down there.

Huskies head coach Rod Carey thinks playing a bowl game in the state only helps with recruiting down there.

“I think so,” he said. “We’ve dabbled down there some and we have good ties down there. And I think Montgomery’s a good place to have a bowl. Mobile, we were down there two years ago, that’s a good place, too.”

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported that there will be two other new bowl games in place for 2014, in Nassau, Bahamas and Boca Raton, Fla. The game in Nassau is expected to feature Conference USA and the MAC, while the game in Boca Raton, which will be at Florida Atlantic University, will pit C-USA against either the MAC, American Athletic or Mountain West, according to ESPN.

That would put next season’s bowl total at at least 38 games. Carey certainly isn’t complaining about the number of bowl games.

“Any bowl to us is a great bowl,” Carey said. “It’s a reward and it’s an opportunity to play again, which all those things are important.”

Other notes from Tuesday’s practice:

• Defensive end George Rainey and cornerback Sean Evans didn’t practice. Carey said both are just dinged up, and won’t be out for an extended period of time.

• Carey said NIU is starting to get more and more into game preparation for Iowa, but that the Huskies are going to keep pushing and working on the little things.

• The practice schedule for the rest of the week has changed. NIU will hold practices at 8 p.m. tonight, Thursday and Friday. The Huskies will hold a mock game Saturday at 2:35 p.m.

• NIU tested out the new video board and ribbon boards Tuesday. I’ll just say both will look real nice on game days.

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