Coastal Carolina looks to knock off MAC champ NIU in Cure Bowl

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The bowl season kicks off Friday as two teams especially hungry for a bowl victory meet in the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl at Orlando.

Coastal Carolina (10-2) is seeking its first bowl victory after losing in its initial bowl appearance last season in Orlando.

Northern Illinois (9-4) bounced back from a 0-6 record last season and is playing in a bowl for the first time since 2018.

The Chanticleers are used to making history since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Sun Belt Conference in 2017. They have been ranked in the Top 25 and won the Sun Belt title last season, but followed that with a 37-34 loss to Liberty in the Cure Bowl last year — their only defeat of the season.

“It’s another great opportunity for us to get our first bowl win ever,” senior defensive tackle C.J. Brewer said of this year’s game. “Everybody is focused and everybody is locked in. We’re on a mission.”

Coastal Carolina, which was ranked as high as No. 14 earlier this season, would post its second consecutive 11-victory season by beating the Huskies.

“We wanted to (get the first bowl win) last year,” senior offensive lineman Trey Carter said, “but we’re very excited for this year’s opportunity and that would be a great way to cap off our careers here.”

The Chanticleers average 40.4 points per game and allow 20 points per contest. They average 261.8 passing yards and 231.3 rushing yards per game. Three running backs on the team have each gained more than 500 yards.

On defense, Coastal Carolina holds teams to 325 yards — 133.9 rushing and 191.1 passing — and has recorded 32 sacks.

Huskies third-year coach Thomas Hammock is making his first bowl trip since 2013, when he was an assistant with Wisconsin.

“It’s been about eight years since I’ve had a bowl experience,” Hammock told the Orlando Sentinel. “So, just going through the logistics, I realized how tough it is for people in our operations department. More power to them.”

Northern Illinois has a quick turnaround, having beaten Kent State on Dec. 4 in the MAC championship game.

“Before the MAC championship game, we had about 10 days of preparation,” Hammock said, “so this is very similar. We were able to put a schedule in place to give our kids some time off to get their bodies back and get the practice and the work in that we need.”

The Huskies average 422.2 yards per game — 234.3 rushing and 187.8 passing. They are 10th in the FBS in average time of possession 33:03 in time of possession. They have five runners who have gained more than 400 yards this season.

Northern Illinois is allowing 32.7 points and 447.7 yards per game — 232.1 passing and 215.6 rushing.

Wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph said the Huskies coaches have treated each game exactly the same this season.

“They’ve never changed the message regardless of if it was the MAC championship or a regular-season game,” he said. “This week we’re trying to go 1-0.”

Northern Illinois, which has just eight seniors, is the first MAC team to play in the Cure Bowl and will try to end a six-game losing streak in bowls.

–Field Level Media

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