No one has to tell the NIU football team how frustrating it is to be in a one-sided relationship.
The Huskies have been playing Toledo since the late 60's, and as the 8-29-0 all-time record illustrates, NIU has been dominated regularly by the Rockets.
The lop-sided history of the series has a lot to do with the foreboding way the series started. First playing Toledo in 1967, the Huskies were catching the Rockets one year before they started on a record shattering 35-game winning streak. Losing that first game 35-0, a precedent was set from the beginning that Toledo could and would inflict its will on NIU.
Mike Korcek, NIU graduate and former Sports Information Director Emeritus for the Huskies, dedicated a large portion of his working life to studying NIU athletics. As a student in the late 60's, Korcek saw first hand just how intimidating the Rockets were.
"Toledo was the class of the league," Korcek said. "They had a great quarterback in Chuck Ealey. They won 35 straight games and from ‘69 to ‘71, they were ranked in the top 25 on a consistent basis."
From Korcek's vantage point, the winning nature of the Rockets sprung to mind the habits of another proven winner.
"Everyone looked at Toledo like they were the New York Yankees of the MAC," Korcek said. "It was the kind of program that I would have liked to see NIU emulate over time."
Admiration for the work of Toledo, however, would soon be replaced by bitter sentiments. Over the course of the series, the Rockets have enjoyed winning streaks of four, five and an 11 games that dated from 1990 to 2004 (with a four year gap between 1992 and 1997 explained by the Huskies' brief foray into the Great West Conference).
Considering the universities' history against the Rockets, NIU head coaches are often judged for their performance against Toledo. Current NIU head coach Jerry Kill didn't realize how important the games were until he played the Rockets for the first time in 2008.
"When I came here, I had no idea how heated this thing is," Kill said. "Then in my first year we beat them and it was a huge victory. They have beaten us so many times over the years I can see how it has gotten so bitter."
While the Huskies circle Toledo on the schedule every year, the Rockets oftentimes look at NIU as just another opponent. Toledo holds established rivalries with schools much closer in vicinity.
"There are a lot of NIU fans that might dislike or hate Toledo," Korcek said. "But Toledo looks at us and thinks how Bowling Green is a bigger rival being ten miles down the road, or Miami (OH) or Ohio University. Some of the more traditional rivalries."
Huskie fans feel differently because of games like 2002's matchup. Not unlike this season, NIU came in to that game undefeated in conference play. In heartbreaking fashion that year, Toledo took down the Huskies 33-30.
The Rockets have always taken it upon themselves to tear down NIU at the most inopportune time. On Tuesday night, the Huskies once again have the opportunity to assert themselves as the top team in the MAC West.