Huskies set for bowl game

By Ryan Ostry

The football team (8-4, 6-2 Mid-American Conference) is officially returning to a bowl game as they will take on the Duke University Blue Devils (6-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) in the Quick Lane Bowl Tuesday at Ford Field in Detroit.

“We’re obviously happy about being in a bowl game,” Head Coach Rod Carey said. “Last year we didn’t have a chance. I know we’re facing a well-coached team in Duke, and we’ll make it a great experience.”

This will be NIU’s 10th bowl game in the last 11 years after a 5-7 record in 2016 put them out of bowl eligibility, ending a MAC record of eight consecutive bowl appearances since 2008-15.

The Blue Devils will come into Ford Field with an all time 4-8 record in bowl games, in which they last appeared in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2015 with a 44-41 overtime win against the University of Indiana Hoosiers.

The Huskies were led by consensus All-American Sutton Smith, redshirt sophomore defensive end, who accumulated 14 sacks, breaking former NIU standout and retired NFL player Larry English’s old record of 13 from 2006.

NIU’s defense as a whole ranked eighth in the nation in yards, giving up 4.6 per play, according to ESPN.

The offense was commanded by redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Childers, who made his first start in week five against the Kent State Golden Eagles and finished 6-2 as the starter.

The Adairsville, Georgia quarterback threw for 15 touchdowns with five interceptions and a 57.3 completion percentage this season.

Jordan Huff, redshirt senior running back, led the way for the Huskie ground attack, stacking up 740 yards with four scores averaging almost six yards a carry on the season.

Duke started off the season with high aspirations, winning its first four games all by double digits but then struggled to finish the season.

After a promising start to the campaign this season, the Blue Devils lost six straight games, with four of the games being by seven points or fewer before solidifying a bowl game entree with wins over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Nov. 18 and Wake Forest Demon Deacons Nov. 25 in the final two weeks of the season.

Duke’s Defense is ranked 25th in the nation in points given up with 20.8 per game behind redshirt sophomore linebacker Joe Giles-Harris, who has racked up 117 total tackles on the season.

Their 6 foot 5 inch redshirt sophomore quarterback Daniel Jones leads the way for the Blue Devil offense after an up-and-down season with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

The Blue Devils have featured Brittain Brown, redshirt freshman running back and senior running back Shaun Wilson, a lot during the 2017 season where combined they have 11 touchdowns.

The Huskies never have faced the Blue Devils before, but their bowl experience is prominent, as they have played six consecutive MAC championship games at Ford Field from 2010 to 2015.

“I’m sure the people in Detroit will be great,” Carey said. “Everyone likes to go somewhere for a bowl game, right? We’ll make it fun and go up north.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. Dec. 26 at Ford Field in Detroit. The game will be aired on ESPN.