There’s only so much that Northern Illinois fans can take away from the Huskies first game without head coach Jerry Kill, who’s headed to Minnesota. After all, interim head coach Tom Matukewicz will give way to permanent replacement Dave Doeren after the game. And bowl games are notoriously bad indicators of a team’s success in the next season.
But Doeren and the Northern Illinois faithful have reason to look forward to seeing what he can do with the Huskies’ talent after a 23-point annihilation of Fresno State in the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl. NIU generated 504 yards of total offense, with Chandler Harnish going 17-of-26 for 300 yards and a touchdown passing and rushing for another 77 yards and two scores on 11 carries. Chad Spann, one of the few departing seniors from the starting lineup, added another 91 yards and two touchdowns on 14 rushes.
And Matukewicz, who became a quick ESPN favorite with his halftime statement that he would use his timeouts regardless of the score to enjoy the final minutes of the game (he didn’t), got a Gatorade bath after one of the longest televised attempts in college football history.
For Fresno State, it’s another disappointing bowl after another 8-4 season. Last year, the Bulldogs lost to Wyoming in a double-overtime postseason contest. Fresno State hasn’t won a bowl game since 2007. Ryan Colburn was 28-of-38 for 288 yards and two touchdowns, but the ground game was held to 2.1 yards a carry by Northern Illinois.
But the questions now following Northern Illinois into the offseason are whether Doeren can continue the progress of a program that has now set a record for victories in a season (11) and could begin 2011 ranked. Saturday’s win doesn’t completely answer those questions, but it at least provides some reasons for optimism.
Be sure to visit Red And Black Attack for a complete wrap-up of the Humanitarian Bowl and the road forward for Northern Illinois.