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NIU AT AKRON
The facts: 11 a.m., Ch. 50, 670-AM.
Updated: November 21, 2012 6:14AM
DeKALB — Everyone talks about Northern Illinois’ winning streak at Huskie Stadium, which is at 19 games.
But don’t discount the Huskies’ road success. NIU has won five in a row on the road dating to its 48-41 defeat at Central Michigan on Oct. 1, 2011. The loss marked the last time the Huskies lost to a Mid-American Conference foe.
NIU will put both streaks on the line Saturday at Akron.
In 2011, the Huskies lost their first two road games, but coach Dave Doeren’s squad has been perfect away from home since those early defeats.
Doeren said going on the road at the start of his tenure was tough. But the second-year coach said the team has gotten more comfortable.
“Once we got into that stretch, our guys have learned how to adapt and to enjoy the experience together,” Doeren said. “It’s not a vacation, obviously, but it’s a chance to do something together, different. When we practice, we’ll be on the opposite end of the field. That’s what we do when we go on road trips.
“We’ll do everything on the other end and just snap them into the fact it is different, we’re not at home, we’re going somewhere else.”
Center Andrew Ness said the team has matured when it comes to playing on the road, even compared to earlier this season. The Huskies had close calls at Army and Ball State in their first two road contests.
“We’ve matured, learned how to focus better and learned how to prepare better,” Ness said. “How to do road trips better and just be ready to play when we’re at another team’s stadium.”
NIU will need to use its road maturity and experience not only this week against a struggling Zips squad, but in two of its last four games of the regular season, as well.
The Huskies head to Western Michigan next week before making the trip to Ypsilanti to take on Eastern Michigan in their final game of the regular season. Then it’s a possible trip back to Detroit for the MAC championship game.
Doeren conceded that the final stretch of the season is the hardest part of the schedule. Luckily, the team controls its destiny in the MAC West.
“I knew this portion of the season was going to be the toughest because of the games coming up in front of us here with three out of four on the road,” Doeren said.
“We started off, obviously, with some games at home. ... So I look forward to the road trips that are ahead.”