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Huskie Nation departs on trek for historic Orange Bowl visit

Updated: December 30, 2012 8:22PM



DeKALB — Twenty-six buses filled with 1,300 Northern Illinois University students and more than 50 trip advisers pulled out of the university’s Convocation Center on Sunday morning to begin the 23-hour trip to the 2013 Discover Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla.

The NIU Huskies are the first Mid-American Conference football team to earn a berth at the Bowl Championship Series game, according to NIU officials. They went 12-1 and won their second MAC championship with a double-overtime victory over Kent State.

In celebration of Orange Bowl Fever, NIU’s Altgeld Hall has been bathed in an orange glow at night. Like the 1999 Chicago Cows on Parade, decorated fiberglass Huskies sporting an orange or two have popped up all over DeKalb. Olive Goyle, the NIU headless gargoyle, was given a dozen oranges to hold.

Jody Boardman, manager of the Village Commons Bookstore at NIU, has seen a surge in the sale of Huskie shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs, hats and other items.

“We’re all very excited for the team,” said Boardman. “We’ve never had such a big event. This year, our Huskies are back-to-back MAC champs.”

Sell-out seats

Lakefront Lines Charters & Tours of Brookpark, Ohio, was driving the NIU students to Florida. Bus driver Jay Roskoph said there will be three drivers per bus, with each one taking either the first, second or third leg of the trip.

Sherie Newman of Shabbona is one of the trip advisers. She will hold trivia contests on the bus and award prizes donated by DeKalb area businesses.

The cost for the university-sponsored student travel package, which included round-trip bus transportation and hotel, was $150 per student. Tickets to the game are free to NIU students. Recent NIU graduate Tom Voogt of Orland Park was surprised at how quickly the travel packages were sold.

“They sold out in eight minutes,” Voogt said. “I was on the first waiting list even though I logged on right away.”

“You can’t beat the price,” said NIU senior Jim “Hot” Wagner of Manhattan, Ill. “It’s great that NIU is helping to get everyone out there.”

Jay Orbik, NIU director of media services, sponsored eight NIU students from Illinois so they could go on the trip. They are Julianna Kallstrom, Dalia Hollins, Clay Janicke, Jessica Biller, Laura Bauer, Derek Johnson, Kevinne Stredde, and Tiffany Harris.

Forecasts of fun

NIU junior Zach Fiegel of Harvard, Ill., predicted that the Huskies will win the game 31-27 in overtime.

“I’ve never been to Miami before,” Fiegel said. “It will great to see (NIU quarterback) Jordan Lynch and the Huskies put in some work.”

NIU senior Jeremy Dunk of Oak Lawn predicted that the Huskies will win 27-13.

“The Huskies are fun to watch,” Dunk said.

In addition to the game, Dunk is looking forward to the warm weather and the “babes in bikinis.”

Wenjing Li of Jixi, Heilongjiang Province in China, is a recent NIU graduate. She is going to Miami to show her support for the Huskies.

NIU junior Bailey Collins of Naperville said her trip to Discover Orange Bowl will mark the second time she has traveled to Florida. In July, Collins and her family stayed at Walt Disney World while her sister, Nora, played on a traveling team in an ESPN softball championship. Nora is a student at Matea Valley High School in Aurora.

Collins opted to ride on a rented party bus to Florida with 30 NIU students from the Sigma Kappa Sorority and the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity.

“I’m looking forward to spending New Year’s Eve in Miami,” Collins said. “We will also go to a tailgate party in Florida on New Year’s Day and then go to the game. I’ve gone to some tailgate parties such as the NIU blackout game. It was very cold, and we needed to dress warm. Florida should definitely be a different kind of experience.”

Alumni action

Members of the NIU Alumni Association will ring in 2013 at Jungle Island in Miami. The association, in partnership with the Huskie Athletic Support Fund, will also host a pregame reception with buffet and cash bar.

For the biggest game in NIU history, NIU Alumni Association watch parties are planned in Chicago, DeKalb, Oakbrook Terrace and Rockford. There will also be official and unofficial alumni association watch parties across the country.

“This is unprecedented for our conference and for our university,” said Jeff Compher, NIU associate vice president and athletics director. “It’s a day that all of our alumni, current students and fans will remember forever with tremendous pride. I know the Orange Bowl Committee and the city of Miami will provide a great experience for Huskie Nation.”

Notable firsts

NIU head coach Rod Carey will coach his first NIU game at Discover Orange Bowl. Carey was promoted to head coach on Dec. 2, the same day that NIU was selected to play the Florida State Seminoles in Miami.

Carey replaced Dave Doeren, who coached two seasons at NIU and led the team to its first MAC championship since 1983. Doeren went 23-4 in two seasons before leaving for North Carolina State.

NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch is the first player in National Collegiate Athletic Association history to eclipse 400 passing yards and 150 rushing yards in the same game (407 passing, 166 rushing against the Toledo Rockets).

Lynch formerly played quarterback at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago. NIU was the only college to offer him a scholarship. Former NIU coach Jerry Kill said that Lynch “plays quarterback like a safety plays defense.”

Lynch finished seventh in Heisman Trophy voting. (Quarterback Johnny Manziel of the Texas A&M Aggies was named the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.)



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