Huskies hope long bowl wait is worth it

January, 5, 2012
1/05/12
7:20
PM CT
Northern Illinois senior offensive lineman Keith Otis could probably teach a class on college football bowl games at this point.

[+] EnlargeDave Doeren
Peter G. Aiken/US PRESSWIREDave Doeren has led Northern Illinois to eight straight wins and its first Mid-American Conference championship since 1983.
While the Huskies have had wait until Sunday to face Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, Otis has been tuning into as many bowl games as possible. For one, it’s helped pass the time. But he’s also been studying each game and trying to gain any advantage he can for Northern Illinois.

So what’s he learned?

“Looking at the bowl games during the bowl season, I know a big thing that happens is the defense that comes out and is ready to tackle more than the other has a big advantage,” said Otis after a practice from Mobile, Ala., on Wednesday.

Otis couldn’t speak for the Huskies’ defense, but he wasn’t worried about Arkansas State’s defense getting the best of Northern Illinois. The Huskies rank 13th in the country with 38.3 points per game.

“As an offense, we’ve worked on our timing,” Otis said. “Once you get a few possessions in, you’re back in the rhythm offensively.”

At least, Otis hopes it’s that simple.

Preparing for the GoDaddy.com Bowl has been a unique challenge because of the length between the last time Northern Illinois played -- on Dec. 2 in the MAC championship game -- and Sunday’s game. Only the national championship, which is on Monday, is at a later date than the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

The Huskies enjoyed their conference title for about a week, then practiced for two weeks, had a week off for the holidays and returned to practice on Jan. 2 before leaving for Mobile, Ala., on Wednesday morning.

A year ago, it was the opposite scenario. Northern Illinois had one of the earliest bowl games. The Huskies defeated Fresno State in the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl in the second bowl game on Dec. 18.

“Yeah, it’s a little strange coming off last year,” Northern Illinois senior wide receiver Willie Clark said of the long break. “I think the coaches handled it pretty well. They made us prepare and gave us time off. We don’t think we’ve lost a beat.”

“Coach [Dave] Doeren said it’s like almost like the mid-major national championship being the day before the national championship," Otis said. "It definitely has an uniqueness playing so late. At the end of the day, we just want to go out as winners and champions.”
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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