A season in review: Huskie football

By Eli Gehn

The NIU football team had its final hoorah a couple of weeks ago after it defeated Arkansas State 38-20 in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

It was the perfect ending to a crazy up-and-down year for the Huskies, with the arrow pointing up heading into the 2012 season.

NIU was favored to win the MAC West and had a big upswing to take home the overall MAC title. They had a new head coach in Dave Doeren, added a no-huddle offense with offensive coordinator Matt Canada and Chandler Harnish was on the verge of breaking several NIU records.

With basically the whole offensive unit returning from the previous season, NIU lived up to those title hopes in the season’s first game against the Army. The new no-huddle offense was everything it was anticipated to be, as the team seemed unstoppable.

After the lopsided victory over Army, the Huskies would drop two straight games to upper-level conference teams in Kansas and Wisconsin.

People around campus started asking questions. How far could the team go if the defense gives up over 40 points each game? The Huskies were last in the MAC in multiple categories, and they seemed too inexperienced to turn things around.

After another lopsided victory over Cal Poly, the Huskies were stunned when they lost to Central Michigan in their first conference game. This was when the Huskies were supposed to start their championship run by going undefeated in conference play.

At this point, some NIU fans almost gave up on the Huskies. There was no way they could win out, head to the title game and even win the MAC championship, right? Especially the way the defense had been playing right?


With their next two home games against Kent State and Western Michigan, the Huskies only allowed 16 points per game in those contests, dominating in winning fashion. The spark was once again ignited heading forward, and NIU hit the road for the next three games.

The Huskies would pull off a 31-30 victory over the Buffalo Bulls due to a missed extra point in the last ticking moments.

Then, they clashed in a vital game against division foe Toledo on ESPN that turned into an expected barn burner between two high potent offenses.

After the 63-60 victory over the Rockets, the Huskies once again controlled their own fate to represent the MAC West in the MAC Championship game. All they had to do was win out of the regular season and they would be home free.

NIU continued their winning streak with the pummeling of Bowling Green and a last second field goal by kicker Mathew Sims against Ball State.

The MAC West division was clinched a week and a half later after an 18-12 victory over the Eastern Michigan Eagles, and the Huskies were heading back to Detroit to avenge its heartbreaking loss the previous season.

Trailing 20-0 at halftime against Ohio, NIU pulled off a miraculous comeback to win 23-20 as Sims once again hit a last second field goal. The defense that was seen as the deadweight early on in the year was able to keep the Bobcats off the scoreboard in the second half.

On top of a season filled with adversity, Harnish is now the leader with multiple NIU records, 24 to be exact. He also earned numerous athlete-academic awards.

With all of the awards, records and memories that came from the 2011 Huskies, there’s no doubt that this season’s team is one of the most successful in NIU history. An 11-win season, the university’s first MAC title since 1983 and another bowl victory can do that for a team.

Now, NIU will lose all of its starters from the offense this season and will be led by junior quarterback Jordan Lynch heading into 2012.

With the experienced side of the ball shifting to the defense, it will be a different looking ball club that may have a lot of skeptics heading into the season.