TOLEDO – Goodbye, Toledo. Hello, Detroit.
At the Glass Bowl, the unofficial birthplace of MACtion in NIU’s 63-60 win over Toledo two years ago, a different form took place, one that saw as many turnovers and missed field goals as touchdowns.
Yet through it all, the end result was the same once again for Northern Illinois. Another NIU midweek victory, another Mid-American Conference West Division championship, another late-season trip to Detroit officially on the schedule after a 35-17 win over the Rockets.
And the Huskies once again will be heavy favorites to win the title game no matter who ends up being their MAC East opponent in two weeks.
NIU likes to consider Chicago’s Soldier Field its unofficial second home. But judging by how often the Huskies have finished the MAC season in Detroit – now each of the past four years – they should bestow that title upon Ford Field instead.
Call it Huskie Stadium Farther East.
Overcoming a series of injuries to its top wideouts and an uncharacteristic trio of missed field goals from Mathew Sims, undoubtedly the most clutch kicker in school history, the Huskies once again came up with the plays they needed when it mattered most.
Jordan Lynch engineered a masterful 15-play, 99-yard drive in the fourth quarter to grab an 11-point lead after Toledo had punted from the NIU 35-yard line.
Apparently Toledo coach Matt Campbell didn’t learn from last year’s loss to NIU when Lynch drove NIU the same 99 yards on only nine plays to take the lead for good in the third quarter.
Just little bits of history repeating.
How dominant has NIU been in the second half of games this season? The Huskies have outscored opponents, 234-92, after halftime after Wednesday’s second-half rally against Toledo.
The BCS hopes for NIU remain alive for another week and it’s doubtful Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck will be the one to end the Huskies’ perfect season Tuesday. Eastern Illinois’ Dino Babers seemingly had the best chance in Week 3.
Although many experts believe the potential BCS non-AQ bid is Fresno State’s to lose, NIU didn’t control its own BCS destiny entering last year’s stretch run either. The Huskies needed a plethora of teams in front of them to lose to rise into the top 16 of the final standings.
With some favorable results, it happened. And with some more good fortune, it could happen again.
But it all starts with NIU victories. Sometimes teams have to create their own luck, and NIU continues to put itself in a position to do just that.
• Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @RossJacobson.