Chicago Colleges: Bowl Games

Big Ten viewer’s guide: Week 7

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
10:00
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Week 7 is here, and let’s not sugarcoat it: Big Ten football has looked more interesting on other weekends. This first Saturday of the season without nonconference action lacks marquee matchups. Still, the division races will continue to take shape.

Here’s a look at the five games (all times Eastern):

Noon

Illinois (3-3) and Wisconsin (3-2), ESPN2: Will Melvin Gordon run for 300 yards? If the Badgers wanted it to happen, Illinois’ 119th-ranked rushing defense would likely comply. More of the intrigue in Madison involves the quarterbacks. For Wisconsin, Joel Stave, who returned last week against Northwestern, will see time, in addition to Tanner McEvoy, who might also take a shot at receiver. And with Illinois’ Wes Lunt out with a fractured leg, senior Reilly O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey, who was set to redshirt, have competed in practice this week.

Indiana (3-2) and Iowa (4-1), ESPNU: Indiana has shown it can win on the road in tough spots, handing Missouri its lone loss on Sept. 20. The Hoosiers are more explosive on offense than any foe Iowa has faced. But Indiana still can’t defend well, in particular against proficient quarterbacks. The Hawkeyes are going back to Jake Rudock at the start, but C.J. Beathard will play. How well can Greg Davis manage this? If it’s a disaster, Indiana might just find itself in the right place at the right time for an upset bid.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cobb
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesDavid Cobb and Minnesota can take a big step in their quest for a Western Division crown by beating Northwestern on Saturday.
Northwestern (3-2) at Minnesota (4-1), BTN: Who would have guessed a month ago, as the Golden Gophers fell flat at TCU and the Wildcats sat winless, that this game would have legitimate implications for the West Division title race? It does, with NU in quest of a third straight unexpected win to open league play. Its defense led the charge against Penn State and Wisconsin. Minnesota is simply solid, led by David Cobb, statistically the league’s most valuable offensive player. Minnesota has defended the pass especially well in recent games and will test Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian, 13th in the Big Ten in QBR.

3:30 p.m.

No. 8 Michigan State (4-1) at Purdue (3-3), ESPN2: At least it’s not the best team in the Big Ten against the worst. Purdue escaped the low spot last week with a win over Illinois. And sophomore quarterback Austin Appleby looked good in the victory. Very good, in fact. Back at home, he figures to find a much more difficult situation against the Spartans, who might come in a bit angry after nearly blowing a 24-point, fourth-quarter lead against Nebraska.

7 p.m.

Penn State (4-1) at Michigan (2-4), ESPN2: The visitors from Happy Valley, after an off week, get an opportunity to show that their anemic performance against Northwestern was just a fluke. With an upcoming stretch of three challenging games, no better time exists for PSU to get healthy than at Michigan, trying to avoid its first 0-3 start in the Big Ten since 1965. Against a good Penn State front, the Wolverines must protect Devin Gardner and throw the football, neither of which they’ve done well in recent weeks.

Required reading

Video: Tough loss for Irish

January, 8, 2013
1/08/13
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Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert, QB Everett Golson, LB Manti Te'o and S Zeke Motta after falling 42-14 to Alabama.

Notre Dame's play for freedom

December, 30, 2012
12/30/12
2:00
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- For as many questions as Notre Dame's football team faced entering this season -- and for a team whose starting quarterback got arrested, whose freshman All-American end transferred, whose secondary was undergoing a makeover and whose schedule seemed daunting, there were plenty of them -- the Fighting Irish were facing every bit as many off-the-field uncertainties about their piece in the college football picture.

How would Notre Dame fit into the new playoff format? Was its independence viable? What about the potential collapse of the Big East?

The answers came during a six-month course that saw the Irish gain access to college football's new postseason and broker a deal with the ACC that allowed the football team to maintain its independence. Then, they further validated their presence at the adults' table by restoring the glory on the field, running the table en route to a 12-0 record, No. 1 ranking and spot in the Discover BCS National Championship on Jan. 7 against reigning champion Alabama.

Read the entire story.

NIU's Lynch too good to pass up

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
10:13
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MIAMI -- Jordan Lynch grew up playing tailback, still runs like one and detests sliding.

He lives with three offensive linemen at Northern Illinois because their personalities click. One of his former college coaches says Lynch can play in the NFL … as a safety. His current coach likens Lynch to Tim Tebow, whose status as a quarterback is debated more than the fiscal cliff. His Northern Illinois bio lists Steve Prefontaine, the legendary distance runner from Oregon, as an athlete Lynch admires.

No wonder Lynch had such a tough time selling himself as a quarterback coming of high school.

The man who's third in the nation in total offense (4,733 yards), set four NCAA records and led Northern Illinois to the Discover Orange Bowl plays for the only college team that pursued him as a signal-caller. In fact, NIU was the only team to offer a scholarship to Lynch, who committed the summer after his junior year. While many of Lynch's milestones can be attributed to his legs, his success as a passer -- 24 touchdowns against only five interceptions, 152.98 quarterback rating (25th nationally) -- cannot be dismissed.

Read the entire story.

MAC may subsidize NIU trip to Miami

December, 3, 2012
12/03/12
6:28
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The Mid-American Conference will consider guaranteeing that Northern Illinois will not lose when the Huskies play Florida State in the Discover Orange Bowl.

Not on the field, but in the wallet.

MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher told ESPN on Monday that he will present to the presidents of the conference a proposal to subsidize NIU's trip to Miami for the Jan. 1 bowl game.

"Northern Illinois will not be left on the hook like other programs have been," Steinbrecher said. "We've always discussed what we would do when we came to this point and it was clear that the opinion was we'd subsidize the school going so that this could be a conference celebration."

Read the entire story.

Try telling these Huskies they don't belong

December, 3, 2012
12/03/12
9:42
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Anthony WellsAndrew Weber/US Presswire


Northern Illinois, the beneficiary of a BCS rule designed to allow access for schools from non-automatic qualifying conferences, caused much consternation by its selection to the Discover Orange Bowl. But try telling the Huskies they don't belong.

Read the story here.

Doeren's first season at NIU a big success

January, 6, 2012
1/06/12
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Before Northern Illinois first-year coach Dave Doeren could win a game, a MAC championship or a bowl, he realized he first had to win over his players. Doeren understood that wouldn’t be easy, either.

He wasn’t replacing a fired coach at a losing program. His predecessor, Jerry Kill, had led the Huskies to a school-record 11 wins and a bowl victory. The way Kill did things was proven and trusted by his players.

Doeren tried to keep around some of what Kill did to help the transition. At the same time, he also had his own way of doing things, and that wasn’t negotiable. He felt out his players; his players felt out him. Eventually, the Huskies learned to trust Doeren just as they did Kill.

[+] EnlargeDave Doeren
Andrew Weber/US PresswireDave Doeren led Northern Illinois to a MAC championship in his first season as coach.
On Sunday, Doeren and his players will go to battle together again when they face Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

“It took time,” Doeren said. “I told them that I needed them to be flexible. I’m not their old head coach. These coaches aren’t their old assistant coaches. Some things were hard. Some things were easy. Everyone can now see they were good changes.”

Senior offensive lineman Keith Otis felt he and his teammates did have a previous allegiance to Kill.

“Anything coach Kill said, once the senior leadership was behind it, everyone got in line,” Otis said. “In his case, guys bought into things, but it was also because we were successful in those things.”

Doeren’s changes, such as speeding up the offense, were most difficult for Northern Illinois’ seniors. They had become accustomed to Kill’s style of play.

Northern Illinois senior wide receiver Willie Clark never resisted Doeren’s changes, but he admitted they weren’t easy to embrace initially.

“The big one was the no-huddle thing,” Clark said. “We were running 10 plays more than we did last year. That’s always a big thing. They’re just different coaches with different philosophies on offense and defense.”

The Huskies started to warm up to Doeren and his style a bit during spring practice and even more so in early goings of their fall camp. By the time the season rolled around, they were united.

Clark expected that outcome.

“It’s always hard when you have someone new, and someone changes what had been working,” Clark said. “At the same time, you don’t have a choice. We had to buy into what our coaches were telling us. We bought it, and it’s been a success for us. We won a MAC championship for the first time in 28 years. I definitely say we bought in.”

Otis is optimistic their success is just the beginning for Northern Illinois under Doeren.

“I just really hope overall as a group of seniors we can continue to leave our mark as a class that laid the groundwork for a program that becomes special down the road,” Otis said.

Northwestern still can't take next step

December, 31, 2011
12/31/11
5:43
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Few programs felt as good about themselves as Northwestern did prior to the season.

The Wildcats had reasons to be, too. They were coming off their third consecutive bowl appearance and third winning season. It had been five seasons since their last losing one. That was in their rear-view mirror.

Northwestern was consistently competing in the Big Ten and had become a true threat to the conference’s big boys. Gone appeared to be the days the Big Ten could worry about Northwestern only once in a while.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald also believed his last couple of recruiting classes were stacked with more talent than the program had ever seen. The future was thought to be even brighter.

To add to the bubbly feeling, Fitzgerald had signed a long-term contract, and the yearly concerns of another program swooping in and stealing him away were put to rest. His sideline attire would consist of purple through the 2020 season. The assumption was Northwestern had its man, and its man was only going to continue leading the program to higher ground.

[+] EnlargeKain Colter
Brett Davis/US PresswireKain Colter ran for one touchdown and threw for another in the Wildcats' loss to the Aggies.
The team’s confidence was certainly beaming heading into the 2011 season. With a proven quarterback, depth at wide receiver, an experienced offensive line, some talent returning on defense and optimism for a few newcomers, the Wildcats felt they could shock the country this season. They believed they were as good as anyone in the Big Ten and could realistically compete for the conference’s title.

Of course, that wasn’t to be.

In a season where Northwestern was expected to take that next step forward, which included -- more than anything -- winning its first bowl game since 1949, the Wildcats lost their footing and stumbled backward.

As a result of Saturday’s 33-22 loss to Texas A&M in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, the Wildcats dropped to 6-7 on the year, suffering their first losing season since 2006. The bowl loss was their ninth consecutive, and the toy monkey, which wore No. 63 to symbolize the program’s 63-year bowl drought and was going to be destroyed if Northwestern had won Saturday, lived to see another day, actually another year.

Sure, in the context of Northwestern’s history, the 2011 season was an accomplishment. The Wildcats put on a Heisman campaign for Dan Persa. They were competitive in every game. Only one of their seven losses was by more than two touchdowns. They pulled off one of the year’s bigger upsets by defeating Nebraska in Lincoln. In the end, they reached their fourth consecutive bowl game.

And, yes, Northwestern had opportunities to defeat everyone it lost to. The Wildcats were tied with Army Black KnightsArmy in the fourth quarter. They led Illinois by 18 points in the second half. They led Michigan by 10 points at halftime. They were tied with Iowa after three quarters. They led Penn State by three points in the third quarter. They cut Michigan State's lead to seven points early in the fourth quarter. They even trimmed what was once a 23-point, fourth-quarter lead by Texas A&M to eight points.

But talking about plays and games gone wrong, injuries (Persa’s most notably) and the overall idea of what could have been of the 2011 season if everything had fallen in place is what you hear out of desperate programs wanting recognition without achieving real results. Knowing Fitzgerald, that’s not what he’s after.

Fitzgerald doesn’t want Northwestern to be measured by past program standards. Competing for a Big Ten championship every 10 seasons doesn’t make up for having a handful of losing seasons in between. Fitzgerald’s goal has been to create a program which wins year after year and never has to worry about losing seasons.

There are still plenty of reasons to believe Northwestern is headed in that direction. Northwestern’s youthful talent was on display in the bowl game. Sophomore quarterback Kain Colter, redshirt freshman defensive back Ibraehim Campbell, sophomore wide receiver Rashad Lawrence and sophomore return specialist Venric Mark are among the potential future all-conference players. The upcoming recruiting class should also bring optimism.

But right now, hours after Northwestern’s season ended with more losses than wins, something that hasn’t happened since Fitzgerald’s first year as head coach, it’s difficult for the Wildcats and their fans to look past 2011. It was a year that began with as high of hopes as there’s been in Evanston, but ended with a 63-year-old monkey having the last laugh.

Mailbag: NU football coach Pat Fitzgerald

December, 28, 2011
12/28/11
10:39
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Northwestern Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald answered readers’ mailbag questions this week at ESPNChicago.com as he prepares his team for the Dec. 31 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas against the Texas A&M Aggies in Houston.

This is a special group of seniors, and I suspect they’re going to do anything and everything to win. With recent key injuries on a young defense, the offense is going to need to play outstanding. Without giving your game plan away, can we expect any new wrinkles to Mick McCall's play calling on offense for this bowl game? – Kevin, Chicago

Pat Fitzgerald:
I think you were right with the last part of the question. Sorry, I’m not going to give you any inside information. We’re going to do everything we can to win.

[+] EnlargePat Fitzgerald
Reid Compton/US PresswirePat Fitzgerald is preparing his Wildcats for the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on Dec. 31.
Are we going to see future Northwestern games at Wrigley Field? Preferably with two useable end zones. – Michael Carroll, Chicago

PF:
As we talked after the game, we felt like it was a really special opportunity to showcase Northwestern to Chicago. I would never say never, but I think those are discussions that are much higher than myself. Ryan Field is our home field. We like playing in Evanston and in front of our fans. We’ll see what opportunities present themselves in the future.

What has been the reason for your high-percentage completion rates for your quarterbacks in recent years with players like Brett Basanez, C.J. Bacher, Mike Kafka and Dan Persa? – Kevin Jarosz, Mt. Prospect, Ill.

PF:
First of all, Mick McCall and our offensive staff are taking advantage of what each player does best and playing to their strengths. Most importantly, they go out and execute. The quarterback gets credit for that, but the line gives protection and the receivers get open.

Coach Fitz, in building the Northwestern program, what have you found to be the "identity" that Northwestern wins with? What is it that Northwestern Football does consistently better than its opponents to win football games? Love watching your teams, would love the opportunity to see some game film or practice. Hopefully I am in your shoes one day. – Mike Davidson, Springfield, Mass.

PF:
Thanks for the kind words. I think it starts with recruiting character young men for your program. We follow a blueprint. The cornerstone is bringing in character guys that are going to compete on and off the field.

What can you say about Jeremy Ebert and his playmaking abilities and all he has done for the program you run? – Alec, Chicago

PF:
He’s been spectacular. He was a high school quarterback that we converted to wide receiver. The way he’s worked on and off the field to prepare. He does a great job with the tape. He does a great job in the weight room. He’s a young man who has paid the price and put himself in a position to be a playmaker.

How are you preparing to face Texas A&M? – Jordan Herald, Wintersville, Ohio

PF:
It’s a big challenge in all three phases, Jordan. Offensively, they have a lot of weapons. They’re dynamic. They’ve scored a lot of points. Defensively, they’re a 3-4 team. They do a good job of attacking you. Their kicking team has a ton of players. We’ve worked our butt off. We’re going to try and play our best game of the year on Saturday.

Coach Fitzgerald, just moved to Wrigleyville and can't wait to get up to a game next year. Love hearing you on Waddle & Silvy. Who are some younger guys to watch during the bowl game that you are expecting to make a big impact next year? – Bob E., Chicago

PF:
We played three true freshmen this year. Those guys have done a good job -- Treyvon Green at running back, Christian Jones at wide receiver and Jack Konopka at tight end. They’re probably the ones you’ll see the most.

Hey coach, what would you say to a team that is interested in drafting Dan Persa? Go Cats! – Anthony Bertolini, Chicago

PF:
They don’t ask me. They make their own evaluations. It’s pretty easy to comment on a young man who is as strong of a leader as we’ve had in our program. He’s a first-to-show and last-to-go kind of person. He’s a winner. He’s won a lot of games for us. He’s overcome a ton. He’s always professional. He handles himself like a professional now. They’re going to get a guy who can compete and is very smart and understands the game.

Coach, I know you are mostly concentrated on winning a bowl game right now, but I feel as though you will be asked something like this come spring quite often, so I would like to know your opinion on the development of guys like Trevor Siemian or Zack Oliver, who seem to be more of a passing attack vs. Kain Colter who can handle himself at QB but seems to be a bigger threat on the ground. Basically, next season do you see Northwestern as a pass-the-ball-around and try-to-work-underneath with Siemian/Oliver or run-the-option and hit-one-deep with a guy like Colter playing QB?

PF:
I think they’ll all compete. I’ve been impressed with how Kain has handled the whole year and how he’s progressed and been a quarterback, and he’ll remain a quarterback. Trevor and Zack have done a nice job. Trevor has gotten in a few games. Zack has progressed and improved. I think we’re in a good position. It’s going to be tough to replace a guy like Dan, but a few years ago we went through the same thing.

ESPNChicago.com: Anything else you’d like to add?

PF:
I just appreciate our loyal fans and their support everywhere we’ve gone not just this year, but the last five years. There are a bunch of them getting down to Houston. For those who can’t make it, they can go to NUSports.com or call 888-Go-Purple and donate tickets to the game to the less fortunate in the greater Houston community or military personnel in the area. It’s the season for giving.

Mailbag: NIU football coach Dave Doeren

December, 28, 2011
12/28/11
9:36
PM CT
Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren answered readers’ mailbag questions this week at ESPNChicago.com. as he prepares for the Jan. 8 GODADDY.com bowl against the Arkansas State in Mobile, Ala.

How do you prep for a team that will have an interim coach along with a new head coach who could also be on the sidelines? – John, Glendale Heights, Ill.

Dave Doeren:
Because they retained David Gunn on the new staff and he was already the named interim coach and with 24 seniors, you operate under the assumption not a lot will change, especially with Gus Malzahn coaching players at Auburn. I don’t expect him to be really involved in what they do offensively.

Coach, I was in Detroit for the game, and the comeback was even more amazing after being able to watch the replay on ESPN. There were several great athletic plays, but I thought the interception by Jimmie Ward (he covered a lot of ground to get that ball) and "The Catch" by Perez Ashford stood out. Could you comment on how you saw the game after being able to see the film? Congrats. – Dan, Elk Grove Village, Ill.

[+] EnlargeDave Doeren
Peter G. Aiken/US PRESSWIRENorthern Illinois coach Dave Doeren is preparing the Huskies for the GODADDY.com bowl.
DD:
First, thank you. I agree on both plays. I thought Jimmie’s play was a huge play motivation-wise. Perez’s play was an amazing catch on the sidelines. Chandler Harnish put the ball only where he could it get it, so it was a great throw as well.

When will the indoor practice facility break ground? And without an IPF, practice for the bowls typically is an issue, but since it has been unseasonably warm in Chicago this year have you been practicing indoors, outdoors or both? – Tom, Chicago

DD:
We’ve been practicing both. Mostly our offense likes to deal with throws that are under bowl-like conditions. Our defense and special teams have been practicing outside. The weather has made it a lot easier than it has been, I’ve been told. With the IPF, they’d like to break ground in the spring when the ground thaws. That’s not official, though.

Is Arkansas State comparable to any team you've faced this year? – DeAnte Mitchell, Manhattan, Kan.

DD:
I would say they’re similar to Toledo skill-wise. They’re very similar to other teams we’ve faced scheme-wise.

What effect if any does winning the MAC Championship or bowl games have on recruiting? – Kevin, Bloomington, Ill.

DD:
I think it has a huge effect especially when you win close games that are fun to watch and keep people there the whole game. Players want to play at schools that win and win championships, and they want to be in bowl games. NIU has a tradition of being in bowl games. I don’t think there are many conference champions in Division I football. To say you’re a champion in Division I, that says a lot.

A win is most important, but how much attention is there on Chandler's chance to be the first QB to rush for 1,500 yards and pass for 3,000 in a single season? As a fan, I'd love to see that record belong to NIU. – Kurt, Gurnee, Ill.

DD:
Obviously, we’d love to see it as well. That’s not how we’ve got there. We’ve got here by running our offense. We hope Chandler has success. If we get close, I’m sure we’ll try to make it happen for him. But that won’t be the goal of our game plan by any means.

Mr. Doeren, how can you use the program's success in the MAC recently (winning the title) and in past years to move Northern Illinois on to even greater heights and earn national recognition? – Alec, Chicago

DD:
I believe you just keep winning to do that. To get national recognition, you can’t be an every-now-and-then team. You have to be consistent. We’ve had back-to-back 10-win seasons. If we continue to be around 10 wins, we’ll have that. That’s our goal.

Hey coach, thanks for all the great memories this season. What steps does your defense need to take in order to be dominant for next season? Go Huskies! – Anthony Bertolini, Chicago

DD:
I think continue to do what they’ve done the last two games. Not give up big plays, create turnovers, be consistent, tackle well and make plays in coverage and have the ability to continue to stop the run and stop the pass.

NIU's offense is explosive, but Arkansas State's defense consists of Brandon Joiner who is a Sun Belt defensive player of the year. How will NIU's Harnish face off against such player? – Manhtan Kadadia, DeKalb, Ill.

DD:
It’s going to be a challenge for us. They’re the best defense we’ve played since Wisconsin. There’s no doubt about it. We’re going to have our hands full. We’re going to have to execute, use our players on the perimeter and us our tempo to make them run.

The offense had struggled in the last couple games. Why do you think they have struggled so much? How do you and coach Canada plan to change this against Arkansas State? Please don’t leave NIU anytime soon. – Ryan Gibbons, Park Ridge, Ill.

DD:
We have to relax. The guys need to run the plays how we’ve run them in practice and not press too much, which I think has happened with the offense.

ESPNChicago.com: Anything you’d like to add coach?

DD:
Just I appreciate all their support this season and hope as many of them as possible can find a way down to Mobile to support us.

Mailbag: Illini football coach Tim Beckman

December, 28, 2011
12/28/11
8:36
PM CT
Illinois coach Tim Beckman answered readers’ mailbag questions this week at ESPNChicago.com, as he watches his new team prepare for the Dec. 31 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against UCLA in San Francisco.

Has it been a difficult situation with two coaching staffs right now? – Dave, Champaign, Ill.

Tim Beckman:
Not at all. I think it’s been a great working environment. Coach Koenning and his staff, you’d say, have done an exceptional job. I was out at practice watching the players, evaluating the players on the team. We’ve enjoyed watching them coach. In this profession, it’s tough to keep everyone. I thought they were very professional about it.

How do you think coaching in the Big Ten will differ from coaching in the MAC? – Mike T., Chicago

TB:
To me, football is football regardless of where you’re playing or coaching it. Competition is competition. Of course, the Mid-American is a very level playing field as you would say the Big Ten is. The talent is very equal. The great thing about football is it’s played in a 60-minute period. I think they’ll be comparable because they’re balanced in the talent each team has.

[+] EnlargeTim Beckham
Andrew Weber/US PresswireTim Beckham left Toledo after three years to coach Illinois next season.
You’ve used two quarterbacks before. Is that a possibility at Illinois? What’s the key to making that work? – Jason M., Chicago

TB:
We have and we did this year. Our staff has proved it can be successful. We recruited those two young men at Toledo in the same recruiting class. We told both of them, ‘If you can compete at this level and be successful in winning big football games, we’ll play you.’ We did that. I know this isn’t a common thing in football. We have three quality quarterbacks when I watch practice here. You have 15 days in the spring. We’ll have to make a decision when those 15 days are over.

Coach, congratulations on the job. What do you feel is a realistic expectation for this program? – Tony J., Naperville, Ill.

TB:
I think we’re in the process of building this program. It’s a team that won six football games and was one of the first BCS football teams to become bowl eligible. They really proved they can start. We got to learn how to finish. As I look at the stats, we have to learn how to take care of the ball and learn to create turnovers.

Where do you start with a new team? – Max, Danville, Ill.

TB:
I think it starts from the ground up. I think it starts with the current players on that football team to the former players that have been pivotal in the Illini’s great moments. I think it’s going out to get a recruiting class that not only can be great players, but believe in what you believe in as a program.

Hey coach, welcome to the Illini nation. How have your first conversations with the in-state high school coaches went? Every coach has said they want to lock down the state, but it never happens. – Derek, Edwardsville, Ill.

TB:
I think they’ve been outstanding from the phone calls. I was lucky enough that after my press conference on Friday the state’s high school coaches association was in Champaign on Sunday. I got to walk in and meet 40-some-odd coaches in the state. What a great opportunity. Like anywhere at any program, it’s important you create a local recruiting base in your state. You see the people winning are the people who are successful recruiting in their states. It’s one of the first steps in building this program back. We’re going to recruit this state as hard as we possibly can. We’re going to be as thorough as we possibly can.

Coach Beckman, your teams at Toledo have been notorious for scoring many points, but they have also allowed many points in the process. How will you adapt any defensive schemes when it comes to playing teams in the Big Ten like Michigan and Ohio State instead of teams from the MAC like Western Michigan and Ohio? – Martin Roman, Northlake, Ill.

TB:
Throughout our career at Toledo, three seasons there, we have scored a lot of points. We also played pretty good defense. We had two stretches where we didn’t. I know we’re capable of playing good defense as they have done here in the past couple years at Illinois.

What are some positions of interest for you as you watch the game (Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl) on New Year’s Eve? – Jake, Rockford, Ill.

TB:
I told the players when I met with them in individual meeting that it’s an opportunity for them to write a resume in front of a new coaching staff. To be a football player. How you handle yourself on and off the field, even if you’re not playing. Everyone has a role. For a program to be successful, everybody has to know their role and do their role. It’s part of their resume they’ll provide for us on the 31st.

As a longtime Illini fan and alumnus, I know that our fan base has suffered with lack of consistency for a very long time. This year marks the first time that the Illini have put together back-to-back seasons at .500 or better in the last 15 years. I would like to know what your benchmark is for this team for next year and moving forward? - Jorge from Chicago

TB:
I think as you look at our football program the last three years and the ones I’ve been involved in the last three places I’ve been at, we have been very consistent. The thing that stems from consistency is it’s being consistent in everything you do. Not just football, but academics, how you handle yourself off the football field. All those things help in the process.

ESPNChicago.com: Anything you’d like to add coach?

TB:
I’m excited. It’s a new year. It’s a new era. The coaching staff will be named soon as their opportunities in bowl games are done. We’ll be out on the road as soon as the recruiting calendar allows.

Jason Ford ineligible for bowl game

December, 23, 2011
12/23/11
5:11
PM CT
Illinois leading rusher Jason Ford and freshman receiver Jake Kumerow are academically ineligible and won't play in the Dec. 31 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against UCLA, the school announced Friday.

Read the entire story.

UCLA to play Illini in Fight Hunger Bowl

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
8:01
PM CT
In a meeting between teams that recently fired their head coaches, UCLA will face Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Dec. 31 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the bowl committee announced Sunday.

UCLA's coach Rick Neuheisel was fired last Monday, but coached a final game in the Pac-12 championship Friday at Oregon. Illinois fired Ron Zook Nov. 27 after the Illini started 6-0, but finished on a six-game losing streak.

Read the entire story.

NIU-Arkansas St. in GoDaddy.com Bowl

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
5:48
PM CT
Northern Illinois will make its fourth straight bowl appearance in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala. on Sunday, Jan. 8 against Arkansas State.

The Huskies (10-3, 7-1 MAC) and Arkansas State (10-2, 8-0 SBC) will face off in Ladd-Peebles Stadium at 8 p.m. (CST). The game will be televised nationally by ESPN.

“We were the first selection among teams from our league which is an honor, NIU coach Dave Doeren said. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase our players and our program on national television the night before the national championship game.”

Northern Illinois, which claimed its first Mid-American Conference Championship since 1983 Friday night in Detroit with a 23-20 comeback victory over Ohio, has won at least 10 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. The Huskies have a chance to match last season’s school-record 11-win season and will ride an eight-game winning streak into the bowl game. Northern Illinois is led by senior quarterback Chandler Harnish, who won the Vern Smith Leadership Award as the top player in the MAC.

The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt Conference title outright with a 45-14 victory over Troy Saturday at ASU Stadium to improve to 10-2 overall, 8-0 in the league. Arkansas State is just the third school in SBC history to finish undefeated in league play and the Red Wolves won 10 games for the first time since 1986.

The bowl contest will mark the eighth all-time meeting between the teams. NIU owns a 6-1 lead in the series, which included three games played as Big West Conference foes from 1993-95. Northern Illinois won the last meeting, 31-30, on Sept. 21, 1996 in Jonesboro.

Northern Illinois will offer free tickets to NIU students who can attend the game. Students can pick up their free ticket (one per student) at the NIU Convocation Center Ticket Office beginning Thursday, Dec. 8 at Noon. Proper identification will be required.

Northwestern vs. Texas A&M in NYE bowl

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
5:20
PM CT


Northwestern will face Texas A&M in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 31 at 11 a.m. CT, the school announced on its website.

"Everyone associated with Northwestern is thrilled and honored to accept this invitation to play on New Year's Eve in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas," Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips said in a statement. "Our football program and fans have tremendously enjoyed our recent bowl experiences in Texas so to have the chance to return there and be in a city with as much to offer as Houston is an exciting prospect. Add to that the opportunity to play in a beautiful NFL venue against a program the caliber of Texas A&M and you really have the ideal situation for another memorable bowl season."

It's a school-record fifth consecutive year in a bowl for Northwestern.

"This is an exciting time for Northwestern football as we head to our fourth consecutive bowl game," head coach Pat Fitzgerald said in a statement. "I'm very proud of the team we'll be bringing to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, one that is led by a remarkable group of seniors, and we're looking forward to the challenge presented by an outstanding Texas A&M team. On top of that, the city of Houston is one that is very important to us from a recruiting standpoint so it will be a great chance to showcase our Northwestern football program."

Fans can purchase tickets through the Northwestern Ticket Office. Tickets can be purchased online at NUsports.com beginning at 6 p.m. CT tonight, by calling 1-888-GO-PURPLE (467-8775) or in person at the ticket office (1501 Central Street, Evanston, Ill. 60208).

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