Title time? Huskies can almost taste it
By Rick armstrong email@example.com November 19, 2010 7:50PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
DEKALB — Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill is happy his team’s fans are drinking their Huskie Kool-Aid.
There were 18,472 in attendance for last Tuesday’s 65-30 rout of Toledo that put NIU (8-2, 6-0) in the driver’s seat in the Mid-American Conference West race.
“We had a tremendous crowd and I really appreciate everybody’s support,” Kill said. “I think it certainly made a difference.”
For his players, who take to the road for Saturday’s date at Ball State (4-7, 3-4), Kill has another beverage of choice.
“It’s something Gary Patterson, the coach at Texas Christian, told me. ‘When you go into the MAC, you have to get your kids to buy in play as hard as they play when they go up against those Big Ten or BCS opponents,’” said Kill.
“That’s what we have to do against Ball State. If we do, we’ll be OK. If we don’t, we’re in trouble. You have to play with what we call Big Ten juice. It’s hard to do every week, even in pro ball, which is why the best team has two losses.
“You can’t just walk out there and win, not in our conference. There’s too much parity.”
Kill doesn’t expect a letdown from his team, simply because of what is riding on this game. If they win, the Huskies clinch at least a share of the division title and a berth in the league’s championship game Dec. 3rd in Detroit. They can wrap up the title outright by winning at Eastern Michigan the day after Thanksgiving.
“I don’t know how you can let down when you’re playing for so much,” he said.
Northern shoots for it’s eighth straight win, which would be the longest since the school went “major college” in 1969. Coach Joe Novak’s 2003 team opened the season with seven straight wins before falling at Bowling Green and his 2004 team reeled off seven straight before falling to Toledo.
It’s been 45 years since a Northern team won more than seven straight. In 1965, coach Howard Fletcher’s Huskies went 9-0 in the regular season before losing to North Dakota in the Mineral Water Bowl.
The game is Ball State’s season finale and the Cardinals are trying to close with a three-game winning streak after beating Akron 37-30 in double overtime and Buffalo 20-3 in the past two weeks.
“They have a young team and a talented team,” Kill said. “And (head coach) Stan Parrish is a very good offensive football coach. He was the offensive coordinator with that (MAC championship) bunch two years ago (that went on to play in the GMAC Bowl).”
Ring ’em up
Parrish is in his second season as the head man at Ball State but has a career record of 63-59-3 as a head coach after previous stints at Wabash (1978-82), Marshall (1984-85) and Kansas State (1986-88).
He owns a national championship ring from when he was a member of Michigan’s staff in 1997 and a NFL Super Bowl ring from serving as quarterbacks coach of the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.