DeKALB, Ill. –– Some kept mum. Others were more willing to express their feelings.
When the Northern Illinois football team hosted a media gathering Wednesday, there were plenty of questions about Iowa.
Most of the Huskies spun the discussion forward, to a season-opening matchup Aug. 31 at Kinnick Stadium.
For senior safety Jimmie Ward, however, letting go of last year’s 18-17 loss to the Hawkeyes is difficult.
The Huskies recovered from that setback at Soldier Field in Chicago, finishing 12-2 and earning a spot in the Orange Bowl.
Along the way, quarterback Jordan Lynch turned in one of the most prolific seasons in NCAA history, passing for 3,138 yards and running for 1,815.
“They beat us last year in the final seconds,” Lynch said of the Hawkeyes. “It’s not a revenge game. It’s a whole new, different team.
“We’re still trying to find the identity of our team, but we’re excited because it’s the first game.”
Damon Bullock actually scored Iowa’s winning touchdown on a 23-yard run with 2:15 left in the fourth quarter.
It came with the Hawkeyes facing a third-and-9 situation, and played out like a nightmare for the Huskies.
“I think I was at linebacker,” Ward recalled. “It was a check down. The safety was supposed to read (the play), but he didn’t get there quick enough.”
Bullock finished with 150 yards on 30 carries, while Hawkeyes kicker Mike Meyer made four field goals, including a 50-yarder with 9:33 left.
“I wish I can get that back,” Ward said. “But hey, we can prove it again this year.”
The national pundits are wondering if Northern Illinois can prove itself as a perennial BCS buster.
First-year coach Rod Carey tried to temper expectations.
“This isn’t the same team,” he said. “I think the mood (this summer) is eerily similar (to last year).
“We’ve got a lot of work to do before we’re ready to go to Iowa City and play that football game.”
Nobody will be shocked if Northern Illinois beats Iowa, which finished 4-8 last fall.
The Hawkeyes are in the middle of a three-way quarterback competition, while Lynch is being touted as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.
Northern Illinois launched a promotional campaign, sending “Lunch With Lynch” foam sandwich bags to potential Heisman voters.
A coffee mug also honors the 6-foot, 216-pound senior, who will host a weekly Internet program.
“How to win the Heisman is to win games, first,” Lynch said. “We’re excited to be back out here.”
Lynch is one of eight returning starters for the Huskies offense. The defense, meanwhile, will have six new starters.
All of them will try to maintain the same chip on their shoulders.
“The only way we go back into the past is to help us in the future,” tailback Akeem Daniels said. “We’re letting go all of last season and seasons before that.
“We’re just preparing for what’s upcoming.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football