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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Bowl game within reach ahead of final football game

Tim Dodge
Junior running back Antario Brown rushes the ball during NIU football’s 24-0 win over Western Michigan on Nov. 14. The Huskies enter the final game of the season needing a win to be bowl eligible. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

DeKALB – Following a convincing 24-0 win over Western Michigan University on senior night last week, NIU football (5-6, 4-3 MAC) will take on the Kent State University Golden Flashes (1-10, 0-7 MAC) Saturday in search of their sixth and final win needed for bowl-game eligibility. 

Last week’s win was one of NIU’s strongest performances of the season in its most important game of the year to date. The offense possessed the ball for 18 more minutes than the Broncos, the defense pitched a shutout and the special teams unit scored a touchdown of its own.

“I think it was our most complete game, which tells you a lot about the type of character we have in our locker room,” said NIU football head coach Thomas Hammock. “Coming off of two tough losses, to come back and play your best game of the season, that takes a lot.”

The Huskies come into Saturday’s game in second place in the MAC West, trailing the University of Toledo (11-1, 8-0 MAC), and will clinch second place with a win. The Golden Flashes have had a season to forget, losing eight straight games and sitting in last place in the MAC East.

“Obviously, we want to win first by any means necessary,” Hammock said. “Find a way to score one more point than Kent State, that’s all that matters.”


Despite the Golden Flashes having just one win and NIU having a bowl game in sight, the Huskies are taking the rest of the season one game at a time.

“Going into the week, we’re prepared to go for the win against Kent State,” said redshirt freshman cornerback Jacob Finley. “We’re really not preparing for a bowl game, we just want to go in this week and win.”

Junior wide receiver and running back Billy Dozier said if the Huskies can win the time of possession and not turn the football over, they will have a great chance to get the win. 

“Continue to control the pace of the game,” Dozier said. “I feel like we’re at our best when we control it and milk the time of possession a little bit. Taking care of the ball, that’s a top priority for us. As long as we take care of the ball, we put ourselves in a great position to win.”

The Huskies’ defense has been the backbone of the team all season and ranks 20th in the country in total defense and 4th in the country in pass defense heading into the final game of the regular season, according to ESPN

Hammock praised his defense and more specifically his cornerbacks for how they’ve played throughout the season.

“Our back four on defense, and more specifically our corners,” Hammock said. “We gave up a lot of big passes last year, a lot of pass interference. We had a lot of game-changing plays from a passing game perspective. The way our corners have competed and played defense and gave us a chance to execute up front has been nothing short of phenomenal.”


“A bowl game is such a great experience for college student-athletes to have a chance to be a champion,” Hammock said. “You win a bowl game, they call you a bowl champion, and I think that’s something that we want to try to do and try to extend our season for the seniors. But, we have to take care of Kent State first and foremost.”

The Huskies will take on the Golden Flashes in their final regular season game of the season at 11 a.m. Saturday in Kent, Ohio. The game will be televised on ESPN+.

“Everyone’s just eager to get a win,” said redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Skyler Gill-Howard. “We’ve been having a rocky season, so to extend the season for the guys we have leaving and also build a brand of football of what’s coming next year, we just want to get that win.”

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