NIU will want revenge

By Chris Jurmann

For two consecutive years the NIU football team has fallen into a tie-breaking loss for the MAC West title. And for those same two years, the tie-breaking loss came at the hands of the Toledo Rockets.

Toledo has been the bully on the block the last two years, just lying back and waiting for its chance to strike. The first time, we were unprepared and suffered a worthy defeat. The second time, it was written up as a win before the game even started.

Coming into DeKalb, it felt like a foregone conclusion that the Huskies would be playing Marshall in the MAC Championship Game. A little too much confidence cost the team that game and sent the Huskies home for the holidays for the second straight year.

This game has many more ramifications than just bringing pride back to Huskie country. With Bowling Green suffering its first MAC defeat Nov. 4, the MAC West title is once again up for grabs. Whoever leaves the game victorious has a good shot at becoming MAC West champion.

Something tells me, however, that NIU coach Joe Novak isn’t saying a word about records or who can win what conference title this week.

He’s bringing up the losses and the feelings many players on the team had after falling to Toledo each of the last two seasons.

Now, as the weekend approaches, I sense a business atmosphere amongst the team. The Huskies know what they need to do and they know how to do it. They aren’t 9-1 by a fluke. This team can play and has more talent than Toledo.

But can they execute as a team and play like they have the last couple of weeks against Ball State and Buffalo? Or are we in for another Bowling Green-style rude awakening?

If past experience is any barometer, I wouldn’t turn on your television Saturday.

But revenge is sweet. I would be willing to bet there are many members on this Huskies team who have been counting down the days to this rematch since the last loss on Nov. 30, 2002.

Revenge can fuel a team to play unlike any other. Look no further than the BGSU-NIU game Oct. 25 if you want evidence of that.

I don’t see many teams in the country able to compete with an angry, perfectly focused NIU football team. I expect to see that team on the field Saturday.

In the meantime, we should just sit back, relax and count the days until revenge is ours 3 … 2 … 1.