When the Boise State Broncos (8-4, 5-3) take on the Northern Illinois Huskies (8-5, 6-2) in the Poinsettia Bowl on Wednesday, the Broncos will be facing a team that has achieved similar success in the past six seasons.
Since 2010, the Huskies have won 65 games (the Broncos have won 63), have appeared in six straight MAC championship games, and in 2012 were selected to the Orange Bowl, losing to Florida State 31-10.
While Boise State is making their 14th-straight bowl appearance, the Huskies will be appearing in their eighth straight. This will be the Huskies third visit to the Poinsettia Bowl, previously losing to TCU in 2006 (37-7) and Utah State in 2013 (21-14).
Winners of the MAC’s West division, N. Illinois began the season 2-3 before reeling off six straight victories. Among those early games were a season-opening 38-30 victory over UNLV (a team the Broncos beat 55-27) and a tough 20-13 loss at Ohio State.
In the MAC championship game, the Huskies fell to Bowling Green 34-14.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams. The last time the Broncos faced a team from the MAC was in 2012 when they defeated the Miami (OH) RedHawks 39-12.
N. Illinois Offense
The Huskies averaged 33 points per game this season, with a high of 57 against Murray State and a low of 13 against Ohio St.
Injuries wreaked havoc on the Huskies quarterbacks. Junior Drew Hare was having a solid season before a ruptured achilles ended his season in a victory over Toledo. Hare threw for 1,962 yards and 14 touchdowns before his injury sidelined him.
Freshman Ryan Graham stepped up behind him, throwing for 653 yards and six touchdowns before he injured his knee early in the last regular season game.
Freshman Tommy Fiedler was next man up on the chart. He is 21-45 on the season with 265 yards. Fiedler has thrown for 265 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions.
Graham is expected back for the Poinsettia Bowl so both he and Fiedler might see action against the Broncos.
The Huskies ran for an average of 205.1 yards per game this season, led by junior Joel Bouagnon. The tailback put up numbers very similar to those of Jeremy McNichols, rushing for 1,269 yards and 18 touchdowns. He added 11 receptions for 131 yards.
Jordan Huff spells Bouagnon rather nicely. Huff ran for 640 yards, averaging 7.9 yards per carry. He also scored eight touchdowns.
6’4 receiver Kenny Golladay is the top receiver for the Huskies. He hauled in 71 receptions for 1,122 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
N. Illinois Defense
One name to keep an eye on when the Huskies are on defense is Shawun Lurry. Donte Deayon has shown fans of the Broncos over the years that size isn’t everything and Lurry is doing the same for Huskies fans.
Lurry is a 5’8 sophomore defensive back that simply led the nation in interceptions with nine. For his effort, Lurry was named a first-team All-American by the FWAA and by Phil Steele. He also had 23 passes defended.
As a unit, the Huskies allow 25.5 points per game. They allow 233.4 yards per game through the air and 166.1 on the ground. They accumulated 25 sacks on the season while collecting 27 turnovers, including 21 interceptions.
Senior linebacker Boomer Mays is the top tackler on the Huskies. He led the team with 108, making a career-high 16 in the MAC Championship game.
Senior Perez Ford is the star on the defensive line. He made 40 tackles while collecting five sacks.
N. Illinois Special Teams
Kicker Christian Hagan has converted on 51 of his 53 extra point attempts. Hagan is 14 of 18 on field goal attempts with a long of 52.
Jacob Ambrose has punted 65 times with an average of 37.8 yards.
The Huskies are coached by Rod Carey, who has a career record at Northern Illinois of 31-11.