Bowl hopes increase while fans disappear

By Thom Gippert

Visiting teams have not had much success winning games at “The Doghouse,” a.k.a. Huskie Stadium, lately as NIU has won 10 of its last 11 games at home.

Last year, the Huskies traveled to Cajun Field in Lafayette, La. to battle the Ragin‘ Cajuns of Southwestern Louisiana and when all was said and done, NIU suffered its worst defeat of the year, 45-0.

This year, the Cajuns were the ones making the trip and the tables were turned as NIU won a nailbiter 23-17.

USL quarterback Brian Mitchell came into the game breaking NCAA yardage records on what seemed like every big run, but the record that means the most is the team record, where the Huskies stand at 7-2 and have put themselves in position for consideration to a bowl game.

While bowl implications surrounded the game, trying to erase last year’s memories were also used as motivation.

“They took our pride last year and our offense was much better than that last year and this year we wanted to prove it and we had a lot to prove to ourselves and our fans. We came out and got the job done,” said NIU quarterback Stacey Robinson, who scored the game-winning touchdown.

As for the fans, only 5,604 spectators attended the contest and that left NIU head coach Jerry Pettibone puzzled.

“The kind of season they were having and a kind of season we’re having, there weren’t enough fans here today, that really disappointed me,” Pettibone said. “To look up in the stands and in a game as big as this game that meant as much to this team and to them, it should have been full.”

Pettibone also felt the players deserved better support.

“Why weren’t people here to watch this football team play another great team? That really upset me, because the players deserve better,” Pettibone said.

Even though NIU has put themselves in good position for bowl consideration, Pettibone acknowledged that poor attendance figures might hinder the teams chances.

With two games remaining on the schedule, the Huskies have put themselves in a situation for the bowl representatives to take a look. Some bowls that might take that look at the Huskies are the Independence, Liberty, Copper and Bluebonett Bowls. The Bluebonett Bowl was not played last year, but may resume this year.

“We deserve for some bowl out there, some place to come and take a look at us now. I don’t care where it is or who they are,” Pettibone said.