Sun Life Stadium is nearly 1,500 miles away from Huskie Stadium, but the NIU Orange Bowl performance is a million miles away in the minds of the football players.
Trailing 17-10 heading into the fourth quarter of the 2013 Discover Orange Bowl game, the first BCS bowl appearance in school history, NIU eventually fell 31-10 to the Florida State Seminoles, adding fuel to the fire for the BCS pundits who said the Huskies did not deserve to be in the game. That is out of sight and out of mind as the Huskies set their focus on the upcoming season, especially the first game of the season against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The Huskies opened last season with an 18-17 loss to the Hawkeyes at Soldier Field in Chicago, marking their only regular-season loss. This time, they will travel to Iowa to square off with the Hawkeyes to open the 2013 season, and they will be looking to start off on a fresh note.
“We’ve moved on from the Orange Bowl. We made it there last season, but the result did not go our way,” said first-year head coach Rod Carey. “I’m sure Jordan [Lynch] or any of the other players would tell you that this a new team. We are now focused on this team and this season.”
After the season-opening loss to the Hawkeyes last season, the Huskies rattled off 12 wins en route to earning a berth in the Orange Bowl. But despite the historic season for the program, this season’s version of the Huskies are raring to step foot on the field again with last season a distant thought.
“This is definitely a new team, and there’s no doubt we have a new identity,” said redshirt senior quarterback Lynch. “We are a new team, so it’s not a revenge game for us. We just can’t wait to get back on the field and win.”
The Huskies have been looking at the Iowa game with positive, hopeful eyes. They know they have an opportunity to establish their footing and improve while facing a Big 10 team.
“The Iowa loss is in the back of my mind. I have a small chip on my shoulder, but it’s not really a revenge game for us,” said senior safety Jimmie Ward. “It will give us a chance to get better, to improve, leading into our conference schedule.”
With the Orange Bowl and last season in the rearview mirror and preseason camp in the books, the Huskies are excited to start the new season, taking it one game at a time.
“That [the Orange Bowl] was last season. Now, it all starts with Iowa,” Carey said. “Our focus right now is solely on the first game. You can’t play 12 [games] and make a bowl all at once.”