Berth in Orange Bowl, new coach cap wild weekend for NIU
It was an incredible weekend for the Northern Illinois football program.
A 44-37 double-overtime victory over Kent State in the Mid-American Conference championship game kicked off the exhilaration Friday night at Ford Field in Detroit. That was followed by the announcement on Saturday that Dave Doeren had accepted the coaching position at North Carolina State.
On Sunday came the historic news that the Huskies were bound for Miami on New Year's Day to face Florida State in the Orange Bowl, becoming the first team from the MAC to earn a berth in a BCS bowl game.
"We're 12-1," NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch told ESPN. "We faced tons of adversity this year. We won tons of games. … We definitely deserve to be in there."
Capping things off, the school announced Sunday night the head coaching vacancy had been filled by promoting offensive coordinator Rod Carey.
"It has been crazy; it has been nuts. That's the only way to explain it," said Carey, who agreed to a five-year contract. "But it has been good. All of that has been wonderful … and what a privilege for our kids to go to the Orange Bowl. They were so excited they could barely stand up."
While some college observers vehemently argued that NIU didn't belong in the game, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters in Tallahassee that he had no such qualms.
"You don't get in this game unless you're a good football team," Fisher said. "It's easy for talking heads to say that (NIU doesn't belong). They've earned the right to be here, they've earned the right to have this opportunity.
"We know we're going to get an inspired opponent, an opponent that's going to be ready to prove something."
NIU now has its third coach in three years. Jerry Kill left after the 2010 season to take the head coaching job at Minnesota. Doeren was 23-4 in just two seasons on the DeKalb campus. NIU athletic director Jeff Compher is hoping for a smooth transition from Doeren to Carey.
"That's why they did what they did in such a short amount of time," Carey said. "Because I have been here and they want the transition to be as seamless as it can be.
"I don't have any reason today to sit here and say that I want to go somewhere else. Listen, I was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and I went to high school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Joe Novak (former NIU head coach) was the defensive coordinator at Indiana when I played there. So my ties and my knowing about NIU have gone back a long time. And I have wanted to be at this place for a lot of different times in my career. And I finally got here and now this has happened. I don't know why I would want to go anywhere else."
It is not yet clear how many other members of the NIU coaching staff will join Doeren at N.C. State.
"It will be a challenge; I don't know how it will all play out," Carey said. "But I do know that this staff just won back-to-back MAC championships. And as far as I am concerned, it's the finest staff I've worked with. So I would love to coach with all of these guys for a long time."
This year, Carey helped mold an offensive line of five new starters that helped Lynch become one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. Carey transitioned into the role of offensive coordinator after the first game of the season when Mike Dunbar had to step away from that role while battling a serious illness.
"Mike Dunbar is one of the most high-character people and unbelievable people I have ever been around," Carey said. I have learned more from that man … he and coach Doeren I have learned more from."