With a Mid-American Conference title under its belt, the Northern Illinois University football team is going bowling.
NIU announced Sunday that it accepted a bid to the Cure Bowl in Orlando, where the Huskies will face Coastal Carolina.
The game will kick off at 5 p.m. Dec. 17 on ESPN2.
“Obviously, a bowl game is a great experience and a great reward for your team,” NIU coach Thomas Hammock said Sunday afternoon. “I just think it shows a great season. You won games. We have a great opportunity to play a great team in Coastal Carolina.”
The Chanticleers finished 10-2 this season out of the Sun Belt Conference, losing to both Appalachian State and Georgia State. They played one Power 5 team, beating Kansas at home, 49-22.
The teams also both played at Buffalo. The Chanticleers won, 28-25, in September, while the Huskies won, 33-27, in overtime last month.
Led by quarterback Grayson McCall, the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, Coastal Carolina boasts a potent offense, leading the nation in passing efficiency (190.63) while ranking seventh in total offense, averaging 493.1 yards a game. The Chanticleers are sixth in the country in rushing offense, just behind NIU, averaging 231.2 yards a game.
Hammock said the Huskies’ coaching staff will balance game prep this week along with recruiting.
“Our coaching staff is digging into the film this week and will start working on the game plan,” Hammock said. “Obviously, we’ve got to do some recruiting as well. It’s kind of a big deal this week, but we’ve got a great schedule aligned of how to get on the road and see kids and continue to game plan knowing the game is next Friday.”
[ NIU defensive turnaround stymies Kent State, lifts Huskies to MAC title ]
Not even the MAC title game slowed down the Huskies on the recruiting game. After the win Saturday, Wisconsin linebacker Izayah Green-May announced he would be transferring from the Badgers to the Huskies for his final season.
“It’s always a good thing when you can have an opportunity to play in the postseason and put a class together of the quality that’s coming together for us right now,” Hammock said.
The Huskies are fresh off of winning the MAC Championship on Saturday, defeating Kent State, 41-23, in Detroit. They enter the bowl game with a 9-4 record.
They only lost two games by more than one touchdown this year – a 63-10 loss at Michigan, which is in the College Football Playoff, and, 42-21, to Western Michigan in the regular-season finale without starting quarterback Rocky Lombardi.
Niu’s only two wins by more than a touchdown were Saturday for the MAC title and an early-season 41-14 game against FCS Maine.
NIU is 4-9 all-time in bowl games as an FBS team and has lost its past six appearances. Their last Bowl win was against Arkansas State, 38-20, in the 2011 GoDaddy.com Bowl.
This will be the seventh annual Cure Bowl, and NIU will be the first MAC team playing in it. It’s the second straight Cure Bowl appearance for Coastal Carolina, which lost, 37-34, to Liberty last year.
It’s the first meeting between the two teams. Coastal Carolina became an FBS program in 2017, claiming its first Sun Belt title and bowl appearance last year.
“I think all bowl games are great experiences,” Hammock said. “I’ve never played in a bowl game that was a bad experience. It’s always good for the players, always well-organized. They have a lot of different events. But at the end of the day, the goal is to win the game. We want to make sure we allow time to have fun, but we’re focused on the things we need to do to go win.”