Any fan of science fiction television shows can place it immediately.
“I want to believe.”
The catchphrase of the X-Files must resonate with Northern Illinois football fans after the team’s 55-7 loss to Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl, capping an 8-6 season with a blowout bowl loss for the second straight year.
Right now, most fans are more than likely channelling their inner Scully, their inner skeptic. After all, there really wasn’t anything redeemable about this game. Certainly not the negative-9 yards of total offense the Huskies managed after their first drive. Nor the defense allowing 654 yards.
In fact, their really isn’t a single thing that can assuage all the doubt, all the fear most of Huskie nation must be feeling right now.
A third-string quarterback did start, and did look the part. He was sacked five times, all in the first three quarters, and completed a third of his passes for 38 yards. He also rushed for negative-49 yards thanks to the sacks. But it’s not possible, or even fair, to pin a loss like this on a quarterback, or any one person for that matter.
It was a failure from top to bottom, one that is going to bring up some tough questions in the next couple days and weeks. Where is this program headed? Was this year’s season a injury-driven setback, or the sign of something more serious.
NIU coach Rod Carey said the team didn’t quit. Sitting halfway across the country, watching the game on television, it looked like this team quit. Quit early, as a matter of fact, after its first drive of the game. The Broncos scored on their first possession, but NIU was moving the ball nicely, going 42 yards to the Broncos’ 26-yard line. Then Ryan Graham fumbled, and Boise State ran all over the Huskie defense for a score that took 2:18.
Then came the three and outs for the Huskies, and the fumbles – three of them in the first two quarters. Meanwhile, the Broncos kept scoring and scoring. After going up 21-0, the Broncos were stopped on downs, but NIU fumbled the next possession away. NIU had a shot after and Aregeros Turner kick return made it 24-7, with the defense even forcing a fumble on the Broncos’ ensuing drive, but the Huskie offense fumbled it right back.
Aside from that Turner return, there was nothing that shows the Huskies didn’t quit. The Broncos scored touchdowns on their final four full possessions of the half – their final drive didn’t result in points but ate 9:05 off the clock.
Carey said Boise State was just better, particularly on the line. Fans want to agree with him when he says not to make a mountain out of a molehill – I would imagine a fan would obviously want to believe the most positive things they can about the team they love.
But in the immediate aftermath of the game, fans are skeptical. They may want to believe, but the game left little hope.