Wednesday evenings weren’t made for college football. But, somehow television has reordered traditional methods. Saturday is still college’s holy day, but while the NFL has Monday night football, college has captured every other weekday night to accommodate the needs of all conferences’ exposure through television. The Middle American Conference leads the pack in weekday games. Amazingly, the atmosphere doesn’t change.
DeKalb, Illinois set the scene for tonight’s contest between Toledo and Northern Illinois. Despite the post-work crowd, tailgating and pregame pomp didn’t skip a beat. Huskie fans have held a grudge over Toledo since 1989, the last time they recorded a win over the Rockets. Most recently, Toledo has been the team holding Northern Illinois from reaching the MAC title game. The past has set the stage for tonight as the Huskies needed a win over their hated foe in order to control their destiny for the conference championship.
Upon entering Huskie Stadium, fans received thundersticks to cheer on their team. Thundersticks you ask? These are inflatable tubes about two feet long that fans can clang together to create a tinny and not very thunderlike sound. From field level, they make quite an impact. However, when a six year old is behind you slamming the sticks together five inches from your ear, the preference to cheer the old fashioned way grows intense. The Huskies gave fans many reasons to use their artificial cheering devices early on with two touchdowns, one that was tipped by a Toledo defender directly into the hands of a Huskie receiver. The scores sent fireworks into the air and a sense that the Toledo curse would be lifted.
However, the Rockets slowly began to jab Northern Illinois in spurts and in a quiet, methodical fashion, Toledo recaptured the lead in the third quarter and didn’t look back. The game was a tease for NIU fans hoping to finally make the trip to Detroit to celebrate a conference title. They would have to wait yet another year. Toledo went on to win the conference title, but they suffered a beating in the Motor City Bowl at the hands of Connecticut. Northern Illinois quickly put the loss behind them and pressed on for a season ending bowl victory over Troy. Perhaps Northern Illinois’s bowl win and Toledo’s bowl loss gave the Huskies an indirect feeling of triumph over their rivals from Ohio.