The Northern Illinois Huskies will play in their tenth bowl game this year when they take on former MAC foe Marshall in the new Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday, December 23rd. It will mark the Huskies seventh consecutive bowl game, the longest streak in MAC history. The Huskies are 4-5 in bowl games, with their last bowl win coming in the 2011 GoDaddy.com Bowl against Arkansas State.
Despite having a losing record in bowls, the Huskies have continued to win during the regular season. But this consistency has been a recent development for NIU and that's why eight of their nine bowl games have been in the past decade. Here's a brief look back at all of NIU's previous bowl games.
NIU Bowl Game History
1963 - Mineral Water Bowl (Excelsior Springs, MO.)
NIU 21, Missouri State 14
1983 - California Bowl (Fresno, CA.)
NIU 20, Cal State Fullerton 13
2004 - Silicon Valley Classic (San Jose, CA.)
NIU 34, Troy 21
2006 - Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego, CA.)
TCU 37, NIU 7
2008 - Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA.)
Louisiana Tech 17, NIU 10
2009 - International Bowl (Toronto, Canada)
South Florida 23, NIU 3
2010 - Humanitarian Bowl (Boise, ID.)
NIU 40, Fresno State 17
2011 - GoDaddy.com Bowl (Mobile, AL.)
NIU 38, Arkansas State 20
2012 - Orange Bowl (Miami Gardens, FL.)
Florida State 31, NIU 10
2013 - Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego, CA.)
Utah State 21, NIU 14
You may have noticed that there is an extra bowl game in there - the 1963 Mineral Water Bowl against Missouri State. That was not only NIU's first ever bowl victory at any level, but the win finished off the perfect season for the Huskies and they were named the College Division Champions (now Division-II).
The victory paved the way for the Huskies to join D-1 just five years later, in 1968. Sadly, it would be 15 years before the Huskies reached a bowl game at the FBS level, but in 1983 they did just that. Head coach Bill Mallory led the Huskies to a 10-2 record, losing only to Wisconsin and CMU, en route to beating Cal State Fullerton 20-13 in California Bowl III.
2004: Silicon Valley Classic
Dec. 30, 2004 - Spartan Stadium, San Jose, California
NIU Huskies vs. Troy Trojans
It had been raining all day when the Huskies and Trojans took the field for the game, but not even the inclement weather could hold the Huskies down. After trailing 14-0 just nine minutes in the game, Garrett Wolfe began the scoring for NIU, as he scampered for a 50-yard TD late in the first quarter. Wolfe would later leave the game with a hip injury but not even that could slow the Huskies down, as backup running back, A.J. Harris, would carry the ball 23 times for 120 yards and a score. The Huskies reeled off 34 unanswered points to knock off the Trojans for their first bowl win since 1983. Quaterback Josh Haldi ran for two touchdowns and threw for 146 yards in the win.
2006: Poinsettia Bowl
Dec. 19, 2006 - Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
NIU Huskies vs. (22) TCU
It was ugly from start to finish for the 7-5 Huskies when they took on the 10-2 (22)TCU Horned Frogs in the Poinsettia Bowl. Garrett Wolfe came into the game leading the nation in rushing yards but he was held to under 30 yards. It wasn't just him the Horned Frogs stopped. The Huskies just couldn't move the ball at all - they were out-gained in total yardage 60 to 456 and only managed five first downs all game. The only bright spot for NIU was their special teams play, as they blocked an extra point and two punts - one of which the Huskies returned for their only score of the game.
2008: Independence Bowl
Dec. 28, 2008 - Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
NIU Huskies vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
The streak of seven straight began here when the 6-6 Huskies met the 7-5 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. The Huskies struck first with a touchdown pass from Chandler Harnish late in the first quarter, but the lead would only last for 13 seconds and the Bulldogs would return the kick for a TD, tying the game. Tech would take the lead early in the second quarter and never look back. The Huskies actually out-gained the Bulldogs 339-236 but three turnovers and a turnover on downs with less than five minutes left doomed the Huskies chances of a comeback. Harnish finished the game 20-40 with 186 yards, a TD, two INT, and 12 carries for 61 yards.
2009: International Bowl
Jan. 2, 2010 - Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada
NIU Huskies vs. South Florida Bulls
The Huskies and South Florida Bulls both entered the International Bowl with 7-5 records. And for the first 30 minutes they looked even. But the Bulls came out strong in the second half, while the Huskies fell flat. NIU converted just three of their 13 third-down chances while the USF was 7-15 on third downs. After trading three field goals in the first 35 minutes, the Bulls took a 13-3 lead on a 46-yard TD pass from B.J. Daniels to A.J. Love and the Huskies couldn't recover. Harnish went just 12-25 for 130 yards and a pick, while Chad Spann carried the ball 20 times for 93 yards.
2010: Humanitarian Bowl
Dec. 18, 2010 - Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho
NIU Huskies vs. Fresno State Bulldogs
The Huskies would get their first bowl win since 2004 in this game against the Fresno State Bulldogs. The 10-3 Huskies entered the game after losing two big pieces - the MAC Championship and head coach Jerry Kill. But despite those losses, the Huskies came out strong and dominated the Bulldogs behind Harnish. He would go 17-26 passing for 300 yards and 10 carries for 72 yards with three total TDs (two rushing, one passing). Spann would add 95 yards rushing and two more TDs on 15 carries as the Huskies amassed over 500 yards of total offense. The Huskies went on a 40-3 run in a 36 minute span in the middle of the game to put the Bulldogs down. Harnish was named the games MVP.
2011: GoDaddy.com Bowl
Jan. 8, 2012 - Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
NIU Huskies vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves
Harnish ended his career on top, as he was named the bowl game MVP two consecutive years when he led the 10-3 Huskies to a victory over the 10-2 Arkansas State Red Wolves. But it wasn't just Harnish that stole the show - junior WR Martel Moore had eight catches for 224 yards (30% of his season total) and a touchdown. The Huskies trailed 13-0 early on, but Moore, Harnish, and a sophomore QB named Jordan Lynch helped rally NIU - as they scored 31 unanswered points. Arkansas State cut the lead to 31-20 and had hopes of coming back but Dechane Durante ended those hopes when he picked off Ryan Aplin's pass and returned it 36 yards for a TD - sealing the NIU victory.
2012: Orange Bowl
Jan. 1, 2013 - Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
(15)NIU Huskies vs. (13)Florida State Seminoles
NIU became the only MAC team to ever bust the BCS as they won 12 straight games after losing to Iowa in the season opener. The Huskies climbed all the way to #15 after a double-overtime win against #18 Kent State in the MAC Championship. The Orange Bowl was a closer game than most want to remember, as the Huskies only trailed by seven heading into the fourth quarter. Jordan Lynch and the Huskies offense would struggle, but the defense would keep them in the game. After scoring their only touchdown of the game (an 11-yard pass to Martel Moore), the Huskies tried, and recovered, an onside kick - but a costly interception would end their hopes of tying the game. Midway through the fourth quarter, a controversial fumble on a jet sweep would seal the Huskies fate. Lynch finished the game just 15-41 passing for 176 yards and a TD while rushing for 44 yards on 23 carries. NIU was out-gained 259-534 and had only 83 rushing yards - a season low.
2013: Poinsettia Bowl
Dec. 26, 2013 - Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
(23)NIU Huskies vs. Utah State Aggies
Last season saw the Huskies go 12-0 in the regular season before falling to Bowling Green in the MAC Championship (something they got revenge for this year). The loss knocked the Huskies out of BCS contention and into the Poinsettia Bowl against a defensively stout Utah State team that was 8-5. NIU, and Lynch, couldn't get much going against an Aggies defense that ranked in the top-10 of almost every statistical category. After two field goals from Utah State, the Huskies took a small lead when Lynch pounded his way up the middle for his only rushing touchdown of the game. But the lead was short-lived as the Aggies scored early in the third and then again late in the fourth. A 15-yard TD pass to Juwan Brescacin with 1:44 left in the game cut into the lead, but NIU wouldn't have enough to come back. Lynch finished with 216 passing yards (on 20-35) and 39 rushing yards with two TDs, a pick and a fumble lost. The Huskies only managed 99 rushing yards and were just 7-17 on third downs.
In less than two weeks, we'll see if the Huskies can end their two game skid in bowl games when they take on the 12-1 Marshall Thundering Herd in a battle of G5 Champions. The inaugural Boca Raton Bowl will take place on December 23 at 6:00 p.m. (EST) and can be seen on ESPN.