Primetime College Football: uDrove Humanitarian Bowl
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features Northern Illinois University Huskies taking on Fresno State Bulldogs in the 14th annual uDrove Humanitarian Bowl at Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho.
Northern Illinois, 10-3, 8-0 MAC, of the Mid American Conference is making its third consecutive bowl appearance for the first time in school history and is 2-3 all-time in bowl games. Though the Huskies lost a heart breaker in the MAC title game, they still have a chance to go for a school-record 11 wins.
Northern Illinois is now a program that is in transition as earlier this month their head coach Jerry Kill accepted an offer to become the next head coach at Minnesota. So for the time being assistant coach Tom Matukewicz will handle play calling duties before they are given over full time to Dave Doeren, who will become head coach after his Wisconsin Badgers finish up their season in the Rose Bowl.
The Huskies went undefeated in the MAC and in fact won 9 straight games to close out the regular season, with the streak beginning with a 34-23 win at Minnesota. However, even being the top scoring offense in the league at 37 ppg couldn’t help the team when it came to the MAC Championship game against Miami-Ohio. A week after putting up an incredible 71-3 win over Eastern Michigan, the Huskies found themselves with a disappointing 26-21 defeat at the hands of a RedHawks team that converted a late 4th-and-20 play to stay alive.
The Huskies offense is lead by junior quarterback Chandler Harnish, who guides a balanced offense that ranks 13th in nation averaging 37 points. The junior broke a 46-year-old school record by amassing 2,991 total yards on the season. Chad Spann, the MAC player of the year, leads a running game with 264.8 ypg and ranked 7th in country as he gained 1,293 yards for his second straight 1,000-yard season. Willie Clark was often Harnish’s favorite target when he went downfield as he led the team with 38 catches for 514 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Fresno State, 8-4, 5-3 WAC, guided by head coach Pat Hill, is playing in this particular bowl game for the third time in the last seven years and already has wins over Virginia (37-34 OT) and Georgia Tech (40-28) in 2004 and 2007. Coach Hill had trouble guiding the team to wins over the second-tier programs in the WAC this year but almost pulled off an upset of nationally ranked Nevada before losing 35-34 at home. The Bulldogs are currently riding a two game win streak thanks in part to running back Robbie Rouse, who is averaging 109.7 rushing ypg and ranks 13th in the nation on an offense that averages 30 points.
The rest of the Bulldogs offense is managed by Ryan Colburn who has converted almost 62 percent of his pass attempts for more than 2,500 yards and 21 touchdowns against 9 interceptions. Colburn’s often looks downfield to Jamel Hamler who earned all-conference honors as he turned his 47 catches into 725 yards and 5 touchdowns.
A Fresno State squad under coach Hill is known for it’s defense and that hasn’t changed as the team was 6th in the nation in sacks with an average of 3 per game. Senior defensive end Chris Carter is a huge force to reckon with as he had 11 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles on the season to earn the Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year award.
The schools split their previous four meetings, with the Bulldogs winning 55-7 in the most recent game in 1991. NIU is making its third consecutive bowl appearance but its first appearance in the Humanitarian Bowl and is 2-3 all-time in bowl games. Fresno State is making its fourth straight bowl game and is in the Humanitarian for the first time since 2007 but is 2-0 in the event. The Bulldogs are 12-11 in postseason play after last seasons 35-28 double overtime loss to Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl.
PICK: Fresno State Bulldogs