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NIU hoping for another victory over Ball State for Bronze Stalk trophy

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The facts: 2 p.m., ESPN3,

Updated: November 7, 2012 6:11AM

DeKALB — Sitting along the east sideline at Northern Illinois practice this week was the Bronze Stalk trophy.

When the Huskies concluded practice Wednesday, tight end Luke Eakes went over, grabbed the trophy, and the team eventually gathered around it in the middle of the field as head coach Dave Doeren gave his post-practice talk.

The trophy is given to the winner of the NIU-Ball State game and is an homage to the rural communities where the schools are located.

NIU saw a lot of the Bronze Stalk this past week.

“Any time our team’s together, it’ll be with us,” Doeren said Wednesday.

When he was a Wisconsin assistant, Doeren played for Paul Bunyan’s Axe in the Badgers’ yearly rivalry with Minnesota. The axe was first given out in 1948. Wisconsin also played Iowa for the Heartland Trophy from 2004-2010, before the teams were put into separate divisions in the Big Ten, ending the rivalry’s annual status.

The Bronze Stalk may only be four years old, but all rivalry trophies symbolize the same thing.

“I think every school you go to, when they have a rivalry game with a trophy, they’re going to talk a lot about it and make it a big deal,” Doeren said. “You know, for us [the Bronze Stalk] symbolizes victory. Obviously that’s something we take a lot of pride in, having a victory against a team that’s a really good team.

“If we can hang on to it, it means we did a really good job.”

Other rivalry trophies around the Mid-American Conference include the I-75 Trophy (Bowling Green-Toledo), Wagon Wheel (Akron-Kent State) and Golden Cannon (Central Michigan-Western Michigan).

The three Michigan schools in the conference play for the Michigan MAC Trophy, which is awarded to the team with the best round-robin mark between the teams.

Two schools play for trophies in non-conference rivalry games with the same name — the Battle for the Bell. Miami (Ohio) and Cincinnati have been playing each other since 1888, while Ohio and Marshall renewed their rivalry two years ago after the Thundering Herd left the MAC after the 2004 season.

The first Bronze Stalk was instituted in 2008, and the initial game was one NIU fans would like to forget as the Huskies went to Muncie, Ind. in 2008 and lost, 45-14. But since then, the Bronze Stalk has had a comfortable resting place in DeKalb, with the Huskies beating Ball State the past three seasons.

Last year, the trophy nearly went back to Muncie, but NIU rallied from 17 points down in the second half to defeat the Cardinals.

This year’s Huskies are hoping the trophy is with them on the Saturday night bus ride up I-65.

“It’s our trophy,” junior offensive tackle Matt Krempel said. “We don’t want to see that thing leave here, ever.”

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