File:NorthernIllinoisHuskies.jpg Alternate logo.
NIU’s football program was established in the late 19th century, playing its first ever game against DeKalb High School in 1899 and was led by coach John L. Keith to the team’s first ever victory. NIU started out in the independent scene from 1899 through 1919 before joining the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The team became independent again in 1925. NIU returned to the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 1928 and finished the season winless for the first time. In 1929 however, Red Evans took over as the head football coach and immediately twisted the downhill fate of his team as he led his squad to a 6-1-1 record. Evans led the Huskies to continuous winning seasons since his take over, and his efforts paid off in 1938 as NIU captured the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship, the team’s first title. He followed it up with three more championships (1941, ’44, and ’46) and even led the Huskies’ to a back-to-back bowl game appearance in 1946 and ’47 (unfortunately, both on a losing cause to Evansville first in the Turkey Bowl then in the Hoosier Bowl).
In 1950, the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which had dwindled down to only five members (NIU, SIU, EIU, WIU, and ISU) accepted its first members from out of state and changed its name to the Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. With the exception of the spotless season (9-0-0) in 1951 that earned the team a 5th conference title, NIU failed to make a decent showing during the first few years in the newly-named conference. Howard Fletcher though had other plans as he picked up the pieces of the miserable 0-8-1 season from Robert Kahler in 1956. The Huskies’ had a slow progress that picked up in the late 1950s. The team’s third bowl game appearance in 1962, although a loss, was only the beginning of good things to come as in the following season, the Huskies completed their sixth undefeated season which earned them the Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship, an AP College Division National championship selection, and a ticket to the Mineral Water Bowl which the team eventually won over Missouri State. The team made it a three-peat championship, adding up the 1964 and 1965 conference titles. NIU became independent from 1966 through ’72 before joining the Mid-American Athletic Conference in 1973. The team claimed the MAC title in 1983 then went on to their first Bowl Game in the Division I-A, the California Bowl, which the Huskies won over Cal State-Fullerton. The team had no permanent affiliation after leaving the MAC in 1986; first became independent from 1987–92, then joined the Big West Conference from 1993 through ’95, became independent again in ’96, then finally was admitted back into the Mid-American Conference in 1997.Huskies Football entered the 2008 season having produced a 1,000 yard rusher in nine consecutive seasons from 1999 through 2007, including rushers Thomas Hammock, Michael Turner, Garrett Wolfe and Justin Anderson.
The Joe Novak Era (1996-2007)[edit | edit source]
Joe Novak took over the Huskie program in December 1995, and coached his first NIU game in September 1996. The first 3 years of Novak’s tenure proved to be tumultuous, as his Huskie squads won a total of 3 games between 1996 and 1998. Despite this, Novak kept his job and turned the program around. In 1999, Northern Illinois won 5 games, and in 2000 Novak started a string of 7 consecutive winning seasons, going 6-5 in both 2000 and 2001. After a 1-3 start to the 2002 season, fans began to see the fruits of Novak’s labor as the team ripped off 7 consecutive wins, and only a 33-30 loss in their final game against rival Toledo prevented a MAC Championship Game appearance.
Optimism was high to start the 2003 season, with 12 returning starters including prospect and future NFL players Michael Turner, Doug Free, Brad Cieslak, P.J. Fleck, Dan Sheldon, Keith Perry, Vinson Reynolds, Akil Grant, Randee Drew, and Travis Moore. On opening weekend, the Huskies beat #14 Maryland 20-17 in overtime. Then, the Huskies traveled to Tuscaloosa and beat #21 Alabama 16-13. After beating Iowa State the following week, the Huskies were rolling and won their first 7 games. Following their week 5 win against Ohio, the first BCS standings were released, and by week 7 the Huskies had climbed to #10 overall. Novak and the Huskies could not keep that momentum going, as they lost in week 8 at #22 Bowling Green, which also featured the first ever ESPN GameDay appearance for a MAC football game. The Huskies would lose only one more game in 2003, to Toledo, finishing the year 10-2, unranked, and uninvited to a bowl game.
Novak’s 2004 and 2006 teams both went to bowl games. The 2004 team went to the Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, California and was the first Huskie team to go bowling in 21 years. The Huskies fell behind early 14-0 to a Troy team that featured current NFLer DeMarcus Ware, but were able to rally behind future NFL running back Garrett Wolfe and the accurate passing of Josh Haldi to win 34-21. In 2006, Wolfe and company returned to a bowl, the Poinsettia Bowl, against TCU and lost 37-7.
Novak’s final year was a tough one, winning only 2 games and finishing at the bottom of the MAC West. Overall Novak won 63 games as the Huskie’s head coach. He currently is retired and resides in North Carolina.
The Jerry Kill Era (2008-2010)[edit | edit source]
Jerry Kill was hired to replace the retiring Joe Novak after the 2007 season. Kill was previously the head coach at Southern Illinois University, an FCS football program, making NIU his first FBS head coaching job. Kill led the Huskies to three straight bowl appearances in his three years as head coach, all three with quarterback Chandler Harnish. In 2010, Kill led the Huskies to the MAC Championship, but NIU fell to Miami (Ohio). On December 5, 2010, the day after NIU’s loss in the MAC Championship, Kill tendered his immediate resignation and accepted the position of head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. This left the Huskies without a coach, less than two weeks before they were to appear in the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl.
Back-to-back Championships and Orange Bowl (2011-2012)[edit | edit source]
The Huskies went 11–3 in Doeren’s first season and won their first MAC Championship since 1983 in a 23–20 comeback win against Ohio, while also defeating the Arkansas State Red Wolves in a come-from-behind game in the 2012 GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Inclusive of the 2012 season, NIU has won 10 conference and three division titles, appeared in 13 Division I-A and College Division bowl games (winning five), has accumulated 535 wins, and has an all-time winning percentage of .533.
2012 ended up being another memorable season in DeKalb, with the emergence of quarterback Jordan Lynch. Lynch was replacing Huskie QB Chandler Harnish, the decorated NIU starting QB for the previous three years. There was hope that Lynch would be a good quarterback, but no one could have predicted what Lynch ended up doing in the 2012 campaign. Lynch ended the season passing for 2962 yards, 24 touchdowns with five interceptions. He also ran for 1751 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns. The 1751 rushing yards are the most ever by a quarterback in the FBS, surpassing a record set in 2011 by Denard Robinson of the University of Michigan. Lynch’s marquee game was on November 14 against Toledo, where Lynch threw for 407 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for another 162 yards. Lynch lead the Huskies to a 11–1 record, a No. 21 ranking in the BCS poll and their third consecutive MAC West Divisional Championship. In the MAC Championship Game, NIU defeated No. 17 Kent State Golden Flashes 44–37 score in double overtime. Lynch scored the game winning touchdown in overtime. The win eventually propelled the team to No. 15 in the BCS Standings, granting them their first-ever appearance in a BCS bowl game, the 2013 Orange Bowl against Florida State.
The day after the MAC Championship game, Doeren was hired as the new head coach for North Carolina State University.
- 1938 – Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Champions
- 1941 – Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Co-Champions
- 1944 – Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Champions
- 1946 – Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Champions
- 1951 – Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Champions
- 1963 – Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Champions
- 1964 – Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Co-Champions
- 1965 – Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Champions
- 1983 – Mid-American Athletic Conference Champions
- 2011 – Mid-American Athletic Conference Champions
- 2012 – Mid-American Athletic Conference Champions
- 2005 – MAC – West Division Champions
- 2010 – MAC – West Division Champions
- 2011 – MAC – West Division Champions
- 2012 – MAC – West Division Champions
|1965||Mineral Water Bowl||L||North Dakota||20–37|
|1963||Mineral Water Bowl||W||Missouri State||21–14|
|1962||Mineral Water Bowl||L||Adams State||20–23|
- Rod Carey – Head Coach
- Mike Dunbar – Offensive Coordinator
- Ryan Nielsen – Co-Defensive Coord./Defensive Line/Recruiting Coord.
- Jay Niemann – Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
- Rod Carey – Assistant Coach/Offensive Line/Run Game Coordinator
- Bob Cole – Assistant Coach/Quarterbacks
- Frisman Jackson – Assistant Coach/Wide Receivers
- Kevin Kane – Assistant Coach/Linebackers
- Richard McNutt – Assistant Coach/Cornerbacks
- Joe Tripodi – Graduate Assistant/Tight Ends & Fullbacks
- Mike Uremovich – Assistant Coach/Running Backs/Special Teams Coord.
- Brad Ohrt – Director of Sports Performance
- Matt Lipman – Director of Football Operations
- Joe McKillip – Graduate Assistant/Operations
- Zach Opsal – Graduate Assistant/Video
- Peter Roley – Asst. Dir. Football Operations/Video
- Chandler Harnish – Indianapolis Colts (2012–present), QB
- Nathan Palmer – Indianapolis Colts (2012–present), WR
- Scott Wedige – Arizona Cardinals (2012–present), C
- Pat Schiller – Atlanta Falcons (2012–present), ILB
- Justin McCareins – Tennessee Titans (2001–2003, 2008), New York Jets (2004–2007), WR
- Ryan Diem – Indianapolis Colts (2001-2012), T
- Chad Spann – Pittsburgh Steelers (2011), RB
- Larry English – San Diego Chargers (2009–present), OLB
- Doug Free – Dallas Cowboys (2007–present), T
- Sam Hurd – Dallas Cowboys (2006–2010), Chicago Bears (2011), WR
- Michael Turner – San Diego Chargers (2004–2007), Atlanta Falcons (2008–present), RB
- Garrett Wolfe – Chicago Bears (2007–2010), RB
- Britt Davis – Denver Broncos (2010–2011), WR
- Jake Nordin – Detroit Lions (2009–2010), TE/FB
- Hollis Thomas – Philadelphia Eagles (1996–2005), New Orleans Saints (2006–2008), St. Louis Rams (2009), Carolina Panthers (2009), DT
- Larry Brink – Los Angeles Rams (1948-1953), Chicago Bears (1954), DE
- Tim Tyrrell – Atlanta Falcons (1984–1986), Los Angeles Rams (1986–1988),Pittsburgh Steelers (1989),Special Teams, RB
Future non-conference opponents[edit | edit source]
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