‘Focusing on winning’: NIU football looks to tie MAC home winning streak
DeKALB – In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the University of Miami was nearly unbeatable pretty much wherever it played.
From Oct. 12, 1985 until Sept. 24, 1994, the Hurricanes were unbeatable at the Orange Bowl.
Starting with a win over Cincinnati on Oct. 12, 1985, Miami won 58 consecutive home games, a run which ended with a 38-20 loss to Washington.
During the streak, the Canes won national titles in 1987, 1989 and 1991, had a flurry of NFL players and went through two head coaches – Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson.
There have been some long home streaks since – Nebraska won 47 games in Lincoln from 1991 to 1998, while Oklahoma (39 games, 2005 to 2011) and Florida State (37, 1992 to 2001) have had some nice runs as well. Boise State had two long streaks at Bronco Stadium, winning 35 games from 2005 to 2011 and 31 from 2001 to 2005.
Northern Illinois has an impressive on-campus win streak of its own. The Huskies have won 21 games in a row at Huskie Stadium, a streak they hope to keep alive Saturday at 6 p.m. against Eastern Illinois. It’s an on-campus streak, so the total doesn’t count losses at Soldier Field to Iowa (2012) and Wisconsin (2011).
Hypothetically, it would take the Huskies probably seven or so more years of not losing at home to accomplish what the Canes did.
However, NIU can etch its way into the Mid-American Conference history with a win over the Panthers.
The official MAC record book doesn’t list the conference’s longest home win streak.
Through research and help from media guides and conference sports information directors, the Daily Chronicle found the longest home winning streak in MAC history happened from 1997 to 2000, when Marshall won 22 games in a row, meaning NIU would tie that mark with a win on Saturday.
Marshall actually won 33 home games in a row from 1996-2000, the 14th highest total in NCAA history, but the Thundering Herd was part of Division I-AA in 1996. That year they won all 11 home games, which included playoff games.
Other long MAC home win streaks include Toledo winning 17 consecutive games on three occasions – 1969 to 1971, 1999 to 2002 and 2002 to 2005, while Marshall also had a 17-game home streak from 2000 to 2003. Bowling Green won 16 in a row at Doyt-Perry Stadium from 1983 to 1986.
NIU’s current seniors could go a full career without losing a game at Huskie Stadium, although some of them witnessed the Huskies’ loss to Idaho in 2009 as redshirts freshmen.
“That would mean a lot to us, especially with the class before us having the record for (overall) wins by a class, so we’re kind of having an ongoing rivalry with that class before us, and we just want to beat that,” senior NIU safety Dominique Ware said.
There’s no reason to think NIU couldn’t keep the streak going for at least another year. This season’s five-game home slate includes contests against Eastern Illinois (Saturday), Akron (Oct. 12), Eastern Michigan (Oct. 26), Ball State (Nov. 13) and Western Michigan (Nov. 26).
“We just try to focus on winning,” redshirt sophomore linebacker Rasheen Lemon said, “and since I came here, we haven’t lost at home, so we’re just trying to keep that going.”
EASTERN ILLINOIS PANTHERS (3-0)
Last game: Won 57-24 over Illinois State
Last meeting with Northern Illinois: EIU 24, NIU 10 on Sept. 19, 1998
Key players: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, RB Taylor Duncan, RB Shepard Little, WR Erik Lora, DE Pat Wertz, MLB Robert Haynes, CB D.J. Bland, DB Jourdan Wickliffe
Observations: The Panthers would become only the third FCS team in history to beat two FBS schools in the same season if they were to knock off the Huskies. EIU beat San Diego State, 40-19, in Week 1. The Panthers, in the top 10 in both FCS polls, lead the FCS with 631.3 yards of total offense a game. Garoppolo leads all FCS quarterbacks with 1,281 passing yards.
Rod Carey's take: "They have a quarterback who is as good as anyone that I've seen on film in the nation so far. I'm really impressed with him and their team as a whole."
Key stat: EIU has defeated three MAC schools. The Panthers defeated Western Michigan in 1996 and Eastern Michigan in 2004, in addition to their 1998 win over NIU.
– Steve Nitz, firstname.lastname@example.org, @SNitz_DDC