DeKALB – There’s a lot to remember about last season’s Mid-American Conference Championship game.
Northern Illinois football coach Rod Carey, then the offensive coordinator, describes the game as a roller coaster.
Kent State got out to a 10-3 lead before the Huskies’ 14 second-quarter points. Then there was Kent State forcing overtime with 21 points in the fourth quarter, and NIU kicker Mathew Sims sending the game into double-overtime with a 40-yard field goal.
Quarterback Jordan Lynch helped earn the Huskies’ second straight MAC title with a game-winning 2-yard touchdown run, and safety Demetrius Stone picked off Spencer Keith in the end zone to seal it.
“People don’t remember that kick by Sims. That was a big-time kick,” Carey said. “That’s what I remember about it. I was so tired after that game. It was unbelievable.”
NIU opens conference play Saturday against the Golden Flashes at Dix Stadium in Kent, Ohio.
“Two brand-new teams,” he said. “New venue, new place. Playing with a whole different part of the season upon us.”
And, there’s plenty different about both teams. To start off, both have new head coaches.
Carey was named Dave Doeren’s successor 2 days after the Huskies beat the Golden Flashes. Kent State alum Paul Haynes, who spent last year as Arkansas’ defensive coordinator, was named his alma mater’s head coach Dec. 18, after Darrell Hazell took the Purdue job.
The Golden Flashes lost seven starters on a defense that ranked third in the conference in scoring a year ago.
But there are some similarities. Lynch is back, as is Kent State speedster Dri Archer, who has his own Heisman campaign and should play after injuring an ankle last week.
Despite already playing No. 10 LSU, Penn State and Bowling Green, the Golden Flashes still rank fifth in the MAC in scoring defense (28.8 points a game) and sixth in total defense (428.4 yards a game).
“They play really well; they play really fast,” NIU tight end Tim Semisch said. “From what I’ve seen on film from this year, they’re a lot like last year.”