Huskie defeat leaves sour taste

By Mike Romor

Football team’s loss was not a surprise

From Bowling Green’s opening drive of Friday’s MAC Championship game, I had a feeling that only confirmed itself as the game unfolded: NIU’s run was coming to a devastating end.

There was an indefinable feeling that ran inside me after Bowling Green’s opening touchdown drive. Yes, it has become a bit of a tradition for NIU to give up the first score of a game, but this time there was a different vibe.

It might have been all the talk around DeKalb and the nation about the Fiesta Bowl, or it could have been the momentum of Jordan Lynch’s Heisman campaign, but either way, the product NIU put out on the field was noticeably underprepared for the present task.

Within three hours on Friday night, NIU’s season went from the best in MAC history to becoming the least successful since 2010, the last time NIU lost in the conference championship. The season was not a catastrophic failure, but a failure nonetheless.

I am not overlooking the accomplishments from this Huskie team. An undefeated regular season is nothing to forget. I also have not forgotten NIU’s two Big Ten wins.

However, entering this year, expectations for the program were at an all-time high. These expectations were set by the team’s players, coaches and fans. Anything short of another MAC Championship was a failure to them. The ultimate goal was to win a BCS game and avenge last season’s anticlimactic finish.

Bowling Green won the MAC Championship and was clearly the better team on the field in every way. There is no aspect of the game in which the Huskies could possibly claim they outplayed the Falcons Friday night.

With all due respect to Bowling Green, the result came from a massive NIU letdown. Friday marked the first time all year everyone watched a bad NIU football team take the field.

That being said, NIU is a better team than Bowling Green, plain and simple.

All-around, the Huskies have better players, which is why this loss comes as such a shock. Losing the game meant losing the season, while Bowling Green essentially had nothing to lose. Many of the 2013 Huskies’ achievements will now be buried by the unfortunate end result of a record-setting season.

The Huskie football team made the university proud throughout the regular season, bringing school morale to the highest point I can remember. Unfortunately for fans, two of the best players in NIU history were not enough to bring home another championship.

As part of the NIU community, I do not blame Lynch and Jimmie Ward for the loss. In reality, they were the only reason the game did not end even worse. I just cannot call the overall season a success when the team accomplished less than it did a year ago, especially when it set realistic goals that were not met.

NIU’s perfect regular season should not go unremembered by the program or fans. At the same time, the team’s showing on Friday leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, a taste that reminds us of the end result, as well as the expectations, entering the year.