Everything’s not lost for Huskie football

By Steve Brown

Look at this year’s Huskie football team on paper and you’ll shake your head in dismay.

Coming into this season with the top-ranked recruiting class in the MAC, the returning MAC rushing champ, a stellar offensive line and two prime receivers with big-play capability, this looked to be the year NIU finally tied the knot with the MAC championship.

Just like every year.

And now, with a 4-4 record, it seems just about everyone, from Huskie fans to coaches to players, may have given up on that idea.

Saturday’s 31-17 loss to Ball State was reminiscent of the mid-1990s, when the Cardinals were the MAC power and the Huskies were known only for their losing streaks.

The Huskies have been lucky during the past few seasons, pulling off wins they weren’t supposed to. But now it appears that streak of luck has finally caught up to them.

Take 2003, the year NIU climbed to the No. 12 team in the nation with a 7-0 start. Maryland, Alabama, Iowa State, Ohio: all games NIU managed to somehow escape with a win.

Last year was the same story: Southern Illinois, Central Florida, Ball State – all games NIU could have easily lost, but won.

When you rely on your luck to win those nail-biters, sooner or later, it’s going to run dry.

Enter 2005.

Fans can complain that Northwestern, Akron and Ball State are all teams NIU could have easily beaten – but this time they didn’t.

It’s rough justice, but for once, NIU fans are finding their team’s knack for pulling out those close ones isn’t so solid anymore.

That’s not to say the team is any less talented than in years prior. Last year could have easily been the same story, but the Huskies still pulled off their first postseason appearance – and win – since 1983.

Even in the wake of defeat, NIU’s loss to Ball State could turn out to be the wake-up call the Huskies need to finally pull off that MAC championship they’ve almost had the last four seasons.

All they have to do is win their next three games. Easy, right?

Well, not quite. NIU travels to Central Michigan and Toledo before coming home for a season finale against Western Michigan.

CMU just topped Toledo and sits atop the MAC West. The Chippewas certainly won’t roll over like they did last season in DeKalb, when NIU routed them 42-10.

And Toledo … well, enough said. The last time NIU beat the Rockets in 1989, the Berlin Wall had just fallen.

But hey, the White Sox finally won a championship after 88 years of waiting, so what’s to say the Huskies can’t break their own little losing streak?

Everything’s not lost. The Huskies have to forget the talk of any Toledo “curse” and go into the next two games ready to play, then treat WMU like a threat instead of coming in unfocused and ill-prepared as they did against Ball State.

The Huskies have had lucky wins for years. Let’s hope this time they’re saving their luck for the end.