Continuing our look across the vast expanse that is the honorable bowl season…
History: Believe it or not, this is the thirteenth edition of this epic endeavor, which is on at least it’s fourth sponsor. Played, as you know, on the smurf turf of Southern Idaho State, it was a home game for the Broncos on four occasions and for the Idaho Vandals on two others. My personal favorite memory of the game is the 2006 clash between ‘Da U and Nevada- great to see a team from Florida have to play a bowl game in that horrid thing called “weather”.
One of the “neat” aspects of this game is the decision to honor a “Highway Angel” as a part of the festivities- a over the road truck driver who risked his or her life in order to benefit another motorist in danger. Although, I’m not sure “Hey, you get to be in Boise in December” will be a very strong motivation.
Undefeated in MAC play until their upset at the hands of Miami’s Redhawks, this season has been another in a string of successes for Coach Jerry Kill, now the head coach at the University of Minnesota. Ironically, of the two Big T1e1n teams that NIU played, the Gophers were the ones the Huskies defeated, losing by 6 at Illinois earlier in the season. This game will be Tom Matukewicz’ opportunity to earn the top spot. I’m sure vaunted alumni Krusty the Klown is looking for continued excellence.
MAC player of the year Chad Spann leads the Huskies with an average of 5.6 yards per carry, although quarterback Chandler Harnish has set the Northern Illinois record for total offense in the season with 2230 yards through the air and 764 yards on the ground to amass 25 touchdowns. Defensively, Jake Coffman has achieved 12 tackles for a loss to go with his 6.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, and one blocked kick.
NIU/Buckeye Connections: Fortunately the game turned out to be an Ohio State win, but the 2006 game in Columbus was definitely the coming out party for Husky running back Garrett Wolfe.
This will be the fifth time that the Huskies will be facing off against the Bulldogs of Fresno State, a program that has made its name on being willing to play anyone, anywhere, anytime. Winning those games might be another story, but you’ve got to appreciate FSU’s scheduling philosophy. For the Humanitarian Bowl, the University has chosen to give free tickets to any student who wants to make the trip north- again, not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse, given that FSU has to pay for tickets anyway. You’d think that they’d be able to hit up their comedic genius alumni for help with that… and perhaps they have.
Defensive end Chris Carter is the team’s MVP, and the anchor for a defense that has amassed 37 sacks on the season. However, they’ll be missing Kyle Knox, who’s been suspended for the game. On offense, quarterback Ryan Colburn is completing 62% of his passes for 21 touchdowns and over 2500 yards through the air.
Fresno State/Buckeye connections: I looked, but didn’t find any historical meeting between Ohio State and the Bulldogs, although I did find some people who were convinced that the Buckeyes would be over matched by FSU. Man, I miss those guys. The Bulldogs finished their season with an upset win over common opponent Illinois, so I’m thinking they may be back. Correction- As Eric pointed out, the Buckeyes have faced the Bulldogs on two occasions. Total scores- 77-20.
Who Are We Picking?
For me, I like the consistency and “moxie” that Pat Hill brings to his team and their effort, and believe that the coaching transition might be too great of a distraction for the Huskies from DeKalb.