NIU loses to Marshall in Boca Raton Bowl
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BOCA RATON, Fla. — For the third straight year, Northern Illinois was on the losing end of its bowl game.
The Huskies came into Tuesday night’s Boca Raton Bowl against Marshall riding a seven-game winning streak that included winning their third Mid-American Conference title in four years. But they didn’t have what it took to beat Conference USA champ Marshall, falling 52-23.
The Huskies (11-3) couldn’t keep up with the fast-paced attack of the Thundering Herd (13-1), led by quarterback Rakeem Cato, who threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns. Wideout Tommy Shuler had 18 catches for 185 yards and a touchdown, and tailback Devon Johnson had 15 carries for 131 yards.
‘‘They’re good. I think we had the things in to stop them — I don’t think we executed to stop them,’’ NIU coach Rod Carey said. ‘‘They’re good players. As bad as we played, in my estimation, I’m not going to sit here and make an excuse because they played well. I think they probably had one of their better nights of the season, so you give them credit on that.’’
NIU quarterback Drew Hare was 15-for-27 passing for 225 yards and a touchdown. Joel Bouagnon had 13 carries for 84 yards.
The Huskies have done a great job of protecting Hare all season, but the Herd pressured him and sacked him three times.
‘‘It was the stuff we were practicing [for] all week,’’ Hare said. ‘‘We knew what they were going to do, and they did it, and they did it well. Credit goes to them.’’
NIU lost to Florida State in the Orange Bowl two seasons ago and to Utah State in last year’s Poinsettia Bowl. Carey is now 0-3 in bowl games.
Tuesday marked the last game for NIU’s seniors, a class that won three MAC titles. Carey said he told the team after the game that one game isn’t going to take away what the program accomplished this season.
‘‘We just won the fourth MAC championship in school history, third in four years, and they can’t take that away from this senior class,’’ he said. ‘‘And this senior class, along with last year’s, is the winningest two senior classes ever to come through here.
‘‘None of that has changed. There were a lot of tears, there was a lot of heartache [in the locker room]. That was because these guys care, and they poured their whole selves into this thing.
‘‘But when the dust settles, first thing they’re going to think of is MAC championships and things like that that they’ve been a part of.’’
— Steve Nitz/Shaw Media