Referee flop, bad omen doesn’t affect Huskies in big game

By Brian Belford

In cavernous Ford Field, the words echoed like thunder across the arena: “Northern Iowa wins the toss”.

The referee caught himself before the “wa” in Iowa tumbled out of his mouth completely, but the damage had been done.

The bad omen was compounded as during the first few plays the PA announcer in the press box kept referring to NIU as Northern Iowa, and as the first half progressed, this quasi “curse” appeared to be affecting the entire team.

The Huskies came out of the gates uncharacteristically flat. Flat, like week-old cola.

NIU turned the ball over three times, throwing one interception and losing two fumbles, and certainly looked like a cursed team. The Huskies only managed four first downs, and the first half shut out was the first NIU has experienced in 25 games.

As for the Bobcats, they played nearly flawless football in the first half.

The worst thing Ohio ever did was stop playing. If halftime had never been invented, if the game had run its course with no break, Ohio would have certainly cruised to victory.

Instead, the break in the game allowed NIU to wake up. Maybe they just needed some coffee or a motivational speech, or maybe they needed to reverse their “curse” with a little good luck tradition.

Before the third quarter, NIU grouped together in its own end zone, locked arms, and started to swing back and forth, while Doeren walked up and down the front row, yelling and pointing.

“I don’t know when we started coming back out and swinging, but I just knew that we weren’t playing well,” Doeren said. “And we needed to play well in the third quarter and that’s how we take the field.”

It may have been a simple way for the the Huskies to express solidarity, but the fabled “Huskie Swing” worked.

There definitely seemed to be something wrong with Ohio in the second half. It seemed like NIU had somehow transmitted its bad play along to the Bobcats, who suffered a complete collapse in the second half.

“As I look at the game, all three phases of it, in the second half, had a little bit of a collapse,” said Ohio coach Frank Solich. “There was a point in the second half where we were not able to get some drives going, and that was a little disturbing,”

Ohio failed to score another point against the Huskies defense. NIU looked to its wide receivers and Chandler Harnish’s arm to complete the comeback, foregoing the long drives in favor of big plays.

“I don’t think they necessarily had any signature drives, they just had really explosive plays,” said Ohio linebacker Noah Keller.

After Nathan Palmer scored the game tying touchdown, the game was all but over. A glimpse at the big screen TV showed the Bobcats with their heads in their hands, psychologically beaten even though the game wasn’t over yet.

After the players swarmed the field as time expired for the trophy presentation, the announcer who handed the trophy over to Doeren and his players at mid-field flubbed his line: “Congratulations on the victory over the Ohio State Bobcats.”

A fitting end to a wild, thrilling game.