Toledo running back Kareem Hunt reacts to losing to Northern Illinois during last year’s game. BLADE
After having lost six consecutive games to Northern Illinois, the University of Toledo football team is approaching Wednesday’s matchup with the Huskies with a clean slate.
“Last year’s game and the year before that and back to some of those other games, those have absolutely no bearing on this year’s game,” UT coach Jason Candle said. “It’s a new week, with two new teams and two new senior classes. It’s two teams that are fighting right now to get prepared and win the game.”
Last year, Toledo lost to Northern Illinois 32-27 at the Glass Bowl, helping to ruin the Rockets’ hopes of making it to the Mid-American Conference championship game.
“I think in the last couple of games they just played better than we did,” Candle said. “Hats off to them. They got done for 60 minutes what needed to get done to win the game. We made some self-inflicted mistakes last year that they did a great job of capitalizing on them.”
Adding to the intrigue is the game will be at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, the home stadium of the Chicago White Sox.
“It’s certainly a cool experience for our kids,” Candle said “It’s certainly a cool experience and a cool place to have a game. We’re talking about a place that hosted a World Series a few years ago and it’s a neat deal for our players to come away with and say they played there. But it shouldn’t take away from what the focus should be, and that is to win a game.”
Both teams need a win to keep up any hopes of catching undefeated Western Michigan in the MAC West. Toledo is in second place in the MAC West at 4-1, while Northern Illinois is right behind them at 3-2.
“It’s a very good team and a team we have a lot of respect for,” Candle said. “It’s a team that requires our full attention and it certainly is a must win for both teams really.”
This year, Northern Illinois started the season by losing four consecutive non-conference games. But since then, the Huskies are much improved, having won three of their past five games.
No matter how Northern Illinois’ season has gone, the Toledo players are focused on getting their first victory against the Huskies.
“They’ve definitely had our number the last six years,” UT senior offensive tackle Storm Norton said. “But we can’t look back on those. We have to prepare like we do for every game that we’ve had this year. The next three games you have to treat as championship games.”
Facing the Huskies away from their home stadium brings a bit of a new element to what has developed into a bit of a rivalry.
“It will be a neat experience,” UT senior defensive end John Stepec said. “But it’s just another football game that we have to win.”
Contact Brian Buckey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6110.