Monday, Dec 11, 2017
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Toledo ready for another chapter of NIU rivalry

The University of Toledo football team has felt its goals crushed at the hands of Northern Illinois plenty in the recent past.

The Huskies have represented the Mid-American Conference West Division in the MAC championship game in six of the past seven seasons, many times preventing good Toledo teams from experiencing glory.

“There’s only one class here that has not been embarrassed by this football team, and that is the freshmen,” UT coach Jason Candle said. “Everybody else in our room has beaten by this team and it’s taken the life out of our season at some point in their career.

“This is a typical NIU team. They are big, physical, strong and they play really smart football. They are well coached and we will have to be at our best to beat them.”

While Toledo has shown a high level of success the past few years in the conference, the Huskies been a model of consistency in the MAC the past seven years.

“They have established a winning culture, and recruited to that,” Candle said. “Once you have something figured out and you have a blueprint down, it’s easier to recruit to that, because you know what you are looking for. Their staff and coach [Rod] Carey has done a great job of maintaining consistency in what they are looking for in a player and obviously have done a really good job in developing those players.”

Northern Illinois had won six consecutive games against Toledo before the Rockets broke the streak with a 31-24 win against the Huskies at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago in 2016.

After defeating Eastern Michigan in overtime Thursday, the Huskies (6-2, 4-0) enter Thursday’s game at the Glass Bowl tied atop the MAC West standings with Toledo (7-1, 4-0).

“There’s always an excitement level, but that is just because it’s the next game,” junior safety Josh Teachey said. “Of course we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder just because we have some bad history with them. The last couple of years, they have had our number, but we finally got one last year. It’s a new year and new teams. It’s just another year to keep the rivalry going.”

For Toledo players like senior running back Terry Swanson, Northern Illinois has caused a lot of disappointment.

“We still remember that, but we are not going to harp on it,” Swanson said. “We just have to stay in the moment. We have to prepare like it is another game and just be ready. We are looking forward to that level of competitiveness that both these teams bring. It’s going to be a great game. As a football fan and player, how can you not want a game like this? It’s something you look forward to.”

Candle said the Rockets are in a good position heading into November and are at the point in the season for which they prepared all offseason.

“You work the entire year to set yourself up to get to this point in time,” Candle said. “We talked about this stuff in April and May and June and all summer. The captains talk about it. The players talk about it. I think we are built for this. This is what we planned for and now we are here. We’d be foolish to make it bigger than it is and put a bunch of pressure on ourselves and on our players. We know we are playing a great team. But we’ve played some other great teams this year as well and we’ll play more of them down the road. We just have to go and have a great week and stick to the routine and the recipe that has been successful for us so far and do it better than we have before.”

Contact Brian Buckey at: bbuckey@theblade.com419-724-6110, or on Twitter @BrianBuckey.

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