Convo center rocks as Huskies take victory

DeKALB -- Fans of Northern Illinois University football came into the Convocation Center expecting a win. <p>

As quarterback Josh Haldi took a knee with time winding down in the fourth quarter, the Huskie faithful were sent home with just that.

More than 1,500 people came to the Convo Center to witness NIU defeat No. 21 University of Alabama 19-16 on Saturday. As time wound down, every fan that stayed for the victory let out huge chants of N-I-U.

"I'm glad that I got rejected from Alabama," said junior elementary education major Charlie Dahlin. "It's just great to go out and be here with all the Huskie fans."

Fans got into a frenzy early as the Colorada-Florida State game was turned off midway in favor of the live feed of the NIU game. After the switch, coach Joe Novak appeared on the screen and was greeted with a large eruption of cheering. Novak made a statement thanking the students and the community for coming to watch the game and for their continuous support throughout the years.

Just like a home game, fans rattled their keychains during every kickoff. On every first down, fans chanted, "And that's a Huskie first down!"

The only boos came during every Alabama commercial that appeared on television and when the starting offensive lineup from the Crimson Tide was announced.

After every Michael Turner carry, everyone's confidence in a Huskie victory increased. However, the fans started to go crazy after the Huskies blocked Alabama's first extra point try, which was returned by Kevin Woods to cut Bama's lead to 6-2.

But the biggest cheers of the day came on Haldi's 48-yard touchdown pass to Dan Sheldon, securing the lead and the victory.

"It was in their hearts," said sophomore elementary education major Mike Wilson. "They played a great game. I had a lot of confidence in them. It's always somebody new stepping up every game. We are tired of being the underdogs."

Junior marketing major Kristen Allen said she came to the game because of her Huskie pride.

"I'm glad I'm a Huskie right now," she said. "That blocked extra point was exciting and got the momentum going for them."

Also in attendance was former NIU quarterback Chris Finlen, who played for the Huskies from 1997-2001.

Rehabbing from surgery on his left shoulder, Finlen received a call from Kevin Selover, a former middle linebacker for the Huskies and now director of marketing for the Convo Center. Selover told the former QB to come out to the game. Finlen took his advice.

"This is amazing," Finlen said. "This is nothing like when we were playing here. It's a tribute to the success the team has had the last couple of years."

Director of the Convocation Center John Gordon called Saturday's event a huge success. Gordon said this could be the first of many such events.

Gordon said the idea came about a week ago. After researching the cost and logistics of holding the game at the center, he got the go-ahead on Wednesday to make it happen.

"The fans were in it like it was a real home game," Gordon said. "We'll look down the road to do it for football and even basketball. We probably won't do it every game. This building was built for a reason. One was to bring everyone together. This was an event that served that purpose perfectly."

"We'd love to do it again for the community," Selover added. "With the game blacked out, we wanted to do something for the community. It was nice to see everyone come out and support the Huskies."


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