By Doug Halberstadt
Next Tuesday night (Dec. 23), the Northern Illinois Huskies will be in Boca Raton, Florida, to take on the Marshall Thundering Herd in the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl. The Huskies earned their trip to the game by winning the Mid-American Conference for the third time in the last four years with a 7-1 record and going 11-2 overall.
With the invitation to the Boca Raton Bowl, NIU extends its school and MAC record for consecutive bowl seasons to seven, and the Huskies will play in a bowl for the ninth time in the last 11 years.
The Huskies will play in a bowl game for the 10th time in its history as a major college program (since 1969) and for the 15th time overall.
The Huskies come into the game on a seven-game winning streak after defeating MAC East Champion Bowling Green 51-17 in the Marathon MAC Championship game. The Huskies are one of only two teams in the country (with Oregon) to win 11 or more games over each of the last five seasons.
Marshall took a very similar path to Florida. They won the Conference USA championship with a 7-1 record and compiled a 12-1 season record. The only blemish on their record was a 67-66 loss to Western Kentucky in overtime Nov. 28. The Herd defeated Louisiana Tech 26-23 in the Conference USA Championship game. Marshall was a member of the MAC from 1997 to 2004.
I know people who graduated from NIU and are big Huskies supporters. To the best of my knowledge, none of them has made any plans to head down to Florida to catch the game. NIU must have anticipated that the interest level for this game would be lower than last year’s trip to the Orange Bowl.
Their website is making a unique offer. There is a place where fans unable to make the trip can actually purchase the $40 tickets and donate them to the Fort Lauderdale U.S. Coast Guard and VFW posts. I give credit to NIU for realizing that their allotment of tickets would probably not be fully utilized and figuring out a way to make something positive out of it.
That’s just one of the many reasons I’ll be pulling for the Huskies over the Herd. GO NIU!
From the Dec. 17-23, 2014, issue