DEKALB – They’ve been one of the turnaround stories in the Mid-American conference in 2021 and maybe even in the FBS, as they’ve come back from a winless shortened season in 2020 to come to the cusp of a division championship.
But one thing is for sure for Northern Illinois – they don’t make it easy.
In four of their seven wins during this season, they’ve won by either one or two points, including a memorable contest against Ball State on Wednesday night. In a back-and-forth contest, the Huskies grabbed a lead with 2:42 left to go, then lost it exactly one minute later.
But the NIU offense had an answer, picking up 62 yards in the two-minute drill to set up John Robinson for the game-winning 32-yard field goal to give the hosts a 30-29 victory.
Robinson got some national attention as he sprinted towards the Ball State sidelines in search of the “Bronze Stalk” – a trophy given to the winner of the MAC contest between the Huskies and the Cardinals.
Eventually, NIU got their hands on the trophy, and now have a strong grip on the MAC West with just two games remaining. Thanks to tie-breakers, if they can win one of their two remaining games they’ll clinch at least a share of the division title and would earn a spot in the MAC Championship Game in Detroit.
They’ll face Buffalo on the road next Wednesday then conclude the regular season at home against Western Michigan on November 23rd.
The Huskies are a part of this week’s “Campus-Check In” from WGN News Now as we look ahead to the third-to-last week of the regular season for college football.
Notre Dame is facing Virginia on the road in a night game Saturday night with All-American safety Kyle Hamilton’s status remaining up in the air due to a knee injury suffered against USC. Head coach Brian Kelly said the safety has yet to be medically cleared to play and said that the likely first round draft pick will take the field once he’s ready.
Meanwhile, Northwestern faces a “win-or-else” situation for the rest of the season when it comes to qualifying for a bowl game. At 3-6, they’ll have to win out to reach a postseason game, starting with a contest Saturday against No. 18 Wisconsin, who has won five-straight games to grab a share of the Big Ten West lead.
Illinois will face the same situation starting next week, but they have a bye this week as they look ahead to a match-up with No. 20 Iowa on November 20th. They’ll have to beat the Hawkeyes then their finale against the Wildcats in Champaign to be postseason eligible.
Larry Hawley has more on each of those teams in the video above.