Huskies’ focus will determine bowl game fate

By Brian Belford & Eli Gehn

Eli Gehn: Alright, Brian, the last

game for NIU football this season is finally upon us. The Huskies

had a huge comeback victory over Ohio in the MAC Championship last

month. It was an exciting year, wouldn’t you agree?

Brian Belford: I would say it has

been an extremely exciting year. The Huskies experienced the lowest

of lows after a two-game losing streak, leading to doubts about

their defense and then experienced the highest of highs by winning

the championship and a host of other awards along the way.

Quarterback Chandler Harnish broke school records, center Scott

Wedige is an All-American and head coach Dave Doeren got a contract

extension. Every good thing that could have happened, happened,

which is why I feel like the Huskies just might not be focused

enough to beat Arkansas State.

E.G.: I understand why some people

would say that. It seems as if the Huskies have already

accomplished their overall goals for this season and this bowl game

has minor importance. But this is also the last game of many

seniors’ NIU careers. I see this as a very important game for

players such as Harnish, Wedige, wide receiver Nathan Palmer and

linebackers Jordan Delegal and Pat Schiller, to name a few. They

still have a lot to prove.

B.B.: I feel like they have a lot to

prove as individuals, as opposed to proving themselves as a team.

There will be a lot of scouts at the Bowl trying to

catch a glimpse of what NIU players entering the NFL Draft can

bring to the table in the league. With the MAC Championship already

won, some NIU players may focus on personal stats in this game.

Also, let’s not forget the big celebration they had after the game

in Detroit. The fallout from that – Sean Progar getting a DUI being

held out of the bowl game – is a big distraction.

E.G.: Very true, Brian. But I

believe the seniors will try to leave their last legacy by

defeating a team that is on a nine-game winning streak. The whole

reason for playing this game is to play as a team, and I don’t see

any of these guys being selfish enough to play for themselves. The

MAC Championship game was a huge part of these senior’s careers to

leave at NIU. With a win against the Red Wolves, NIU would have an

11-win season in back-to-back years. It would also be a great win

heading into the 2012 season. It would keep NIU’s eight-game

winning streak in tact and would be something to build on heading

into next season.

B.B.: I think their legacy is

already in place. It would be great to win, but it doesn’t really

matter in the grand scheme of things. I think the players want to

win this game more for all the loot they receive, even though I do

think they want to end the season on a high note. Let’s talk about

time, though. They haven’t played a game since Dec. 2, longer than

any team besides Alabama or LSU. Don’t you think all that time off

will hurt their focus?

E.G.: I think that’s when you put it

into the hands of coach Doeren and the rest of the coaching staff.

It’s their job to keep these guys focused from a long break from

playing the game. That’s what they’re paid to do. This is the last

football game a lot of these guys will ever play in their careers;

some of them may never suit up again, and they know that.

B.B.: This is true. I don’t think

the Huskies will just lie down and not care. They will play to win

the game, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a

lot of subs and back-ups, like quarterback Jordan Lynch, get major

playing time in this game. At the end of the day, I think everyone

wants the football season to be over, and there is only one last

hurdle to clear in Mobile.

E.G.: I completely agree, Brian. I

think the Huskies will come out and give it everything they got,

especially the seniors, to end their NIU careers on a high note. I

wouldn’t mind seeing some of the backups getting in there,

depending on the score, to show what they can do on a national

stage. Hopefully we see a majority of these seniors playing on

Sundays one of these days.