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Northern Illinois will visit downtrodden, hungry Idaho team

Updated: October 15, 2013 7:33AM

DeKALB — When Northern Illinois and Idaho last met in 2009, the Vandals escaped Huskie Stadium with a three-point victory, the last time a visiting team left DeKalb with a win.

This time, they’re playing at the Kibbie Dome, not Huskie Stadium. And NIU has won two Mid-American Conference titles and a BCS bowl since then, while Idaho has fallen on hard times.

The Vandals have won a combined nine games the last three seasons. They went 1-11 in 2012 and fired coach Robb Akey with four games left.

Playing as an independent this season, Idaho will join the Sun Belt next year, but things haven’t gone well in 2013. In losses at North Texas and Wyoming, Idaho has been outscored 82-16 and has given up an average of 577.5 yards.

With Jordan Lynch and the NIU offense in town, there could be a big number next to the visiting team on the scoreboard Saturday.

But one thing Huskies coach Rod Carey pointed out is that Idaho will be hungry in its home opener. Carey, who faced Idaho when he was the offensive line coach at North Dakota in 2010, called the Kibbie Dome a tough place to play.

“I know this, we’ll get their best shot because it’s their first home game, and I expect them to come out on cloud nine,” Carey said. “I’ve [coached] at the Kibbie Dome before, and that place is a hard environment to play [in].’’

Paul Petrino — Bobby Petrino’s brother — is in his first year as the Vandals’ coach after spending 2012 as Arkansas’ offensive coordinator and holding the same position at Illinois the previous two seasons.

“I think the struggles that they have encountered, I wouldn’t put myself in Petrino’s shoes to say why, but they’ve been on the road two times, and it’s a new coaching staff and they’re just getting their feet wet in those systems in gamelike situations,” Carey said. “I know it’s a well-coached football team.”

Everyone talks about NIU’s 21-game home winning streak, but the Huskies also have won nine in a row on the road. That streak ties NIU with Alabama for the second-best in the nation. Oregon has won 16 consecutive road games.

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