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GOULD: Streaks, bowl on line for NIU football

3-9-07 Staff mug shot Herb Gould. phoby Jean Lachat/Sun-Times

3-9-07 Staff mug shot of Herb Gould. photo by Jean Lachat/Sun-Times

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ball state at no. 20 NIU

The facts: 7 p.m., ESPN2, 670-AM.

The records: NIU 9-0, 5-0 MAC;
Ball State 9-1, 6-0.

The line: NIU by 7.

Updated: November 12, 2013 10:36PM

There are so many angles.

When No. 20 Northern Illinois takes on Ball State in DeKalb on Wednesday, it will be trying to extend the nation’s longest home winning streak (24 games) and win its 23rd consecutive Mid-American Conference game, also tops in the nation.

The Huskies will be going against their toughest MAC opponent. The Cardinals led NIU with five minutes to play last year before losing 35-23.

NIU will be wearing special jerseys to honor military personnel and first responders. The jerseys will be auctioned to benefit Active Heroes. The Huskies also will be trying to retain the Bronze Stalk for the fifth time in the six-year history of their trophy game with the Cardinals.

Quarterback Jordan Lynch will have a chance to make diligent Heisman voters at least think about putting a small-school candidate on their ballot.

Lynch is third in the nation in points responsible for (192), eighth in rushing (127.8 yards per game), ninth in total offense (335.7) and 20th in passing touchdowns (19). He bailed out NIU at Ball State last year with a 54-yard touchdown pass and a 71-yard touchdown run in the final five minutes — a Heisman-like performance.

The key number, though, is his 21-2 record as a starter. If that number improves, NIU will keep itself in the hunt for the MAC championship and a second consecutive BCS bowl.

That’s a lot to think about — or rather, to tune out. To keep moving forward, though, that’s what the Huskies need to do.

“You’re dealing with 18- to 22-year-olds,’’ Huskies coach Rod Carey said. “They’re going to be pretty hyped for this game, and they should be. The thing that’s impressed me about this team the entire year is, it’s been really simple: The next game is the biggest game. It’s almost like a faceless opponent. It’s certainly not with Ball State. Don’t take that the wrong way.’’

Lynch is on board.

“I don’t think we have to do anything out of the ordinary,’’ the senior from Mount Carmel said of NIU’s remaining games. “We just have to be ourselves. [But] I think our best is yet to come.’’

For a team that already has won at Iowa and Purdue, that would be pretty good.

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