Underdog title nothing new for NIU players

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Underdog title nothing new for NIU players

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. Amid the cacophony that is the newfound media attention that constantly surrounds the Northern Illinois Huskies, one word has found a way to break through the noise.
In almost every question asked, you'll hear it: underdog.
What else could you call the Huskies? The team is the first-ever MAC school to make the BCS, and they'll go against a No. 12 Florida State team that was in the national-title hunt for all but a few weeks this season.
Some teams would take offense to being called an underdog, but Northern Illinois hasn't been quick to point out that they finished the regular season only three spots behind the Seminoles in the BCS Standings.
No, they rather like the title of underdog it fits.
"I think this team is made up of guys who, at one point in their life, were told that they're not good enough to play here," tight end Jason Schepler said. "So people saying that we're not good enough to be here is just another day for us."
Schepler is the perfect example of NIU's I'll-show-you attitude. Coming out of Sycamore high school, just up the road from NIU's campus, Schepler says he visited every Big Ten school. Each told him he wasn't big enough, wasn't athletic enough, was downright not good enough to play at the BCS level.
NIU took him on as a walk-on and put him at a position that seems from a bygone era a blocking tight end.
Across the country, most blocking tight ends are role players, buried on the overall depth chart, only to be used in special situations. Not Schepler. He's been NIU's offensive player of the week three times, a Lowes Senior CLASS Award finalist and a second-team academic All-American.
The man Schepler blocks for, quarterback Jordan Lynch, might have had Heisman hype this season, but he too came to Northern Illinois as a nobody. Only former Huskie coach Jerry Kill offered him a scholarship out of Mount Carmel high school.
"Im a quarterback first I would say, and no one really liked me for quarterback," Lynch said. "NIU was the only school that wanted me to play quarterback. It was the only school that gave me a shot, so he Kill came down to Mount Carmel and talked to Coach Lenti and invited me to a one-day camp, and I went up there, and he saw me play quarterback, and offered me that night."
Lynch has made good on his one opportunity.
After waiting on the bench for two years, Lynch ran for an astounding 1,771 yards this season not Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton, Eric Crouch, Mike Vick nor Steve Young ever rushed for as many. It set a new single-season rushing record for a FBS quarterback, and it was done without SportsCenter cut-ins or front-page fanfare.
It wasn't until the record was set that Lynch began to be noticed nationally, and now that he is, he's hoping to parlay the stage of the Orange Bowl a game Lynch called the next-best thing to the National Championship Game into another proving ground.
"It was always my dream, play in the NFL," Lynch said. "Just like Russell Wilson, RGIII and all that, theyre doing a great job and it seems like the NFL is starting to make the switch year by year with more quarterbacks like that. That definitely gives guys like me hope that are 6-foot or under."

Wednesday on CSN: Illinois State and Loyola host in Valley doubleheader

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Wednesday on CSN: Illinois State and Loyola host in Valley doubleheader

The Missouri Valley Conference returns to CSN with live college hoops action on Wednesday night.

Looking to make a push for the NCAA tournament, Illinois State hosts Southern Illinois at 6 p.m. live on CSN. Then at 7 p.m. on CSN+, Loyola will host Drake in another Valley contest.

The Redbirds (23-5, 15-1) have won four straight games as they are co-leaders of the conference with Wichita State. Senior Deontae Hawkins leads Illinois State in scoring at 14.6 points per game.

Southern Illinois (15-14, 8-8) won on the road at Indiana State to snap a three-game losing streak as they're hoping for a better result after losing to Illinois State at home by seven earlier this season. Senior point guard Mike Rodriguez leads the Salukis in points and assists at 13.0 points and 4.1 assists per game.

In the second game, Loyola is trying to make a move up the conference standings as they host Drake.

The Ramblers (17-12, 7-9) lost to the Bulldogs on the road earlier this season as they enter this one having lost five of six games. Loyola is led by senior Milton Doyle as he leads the Ramblers in points and assists at 15.6 points and 4.3 assists per contest. 

Drake (7-21, 5-11) has lost seven straight games but they did get the best of the Ramblers in that 102-98 thriller earlier this season. The Bulldogs do have a talented junior in Reed Timmer as he's putting up 15.6 points per game.

Both of these games are important for Missouri Valley Conference tournament seeding purposes as Arch Madness begins on Thursday, March 2.

You can catch Thursday and Friday's MVC Tournament action live on CSN on March 2 and March 3.

Tuesday on CSN+: UIC hosts Green Bay

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Tuesday on CSN+: UIC hosts Green Bay

College hoops returns to CSN on Tuesday with some local action as UIC hosts Green Bay. You can watch this Horizon League matchup live on CSN+ at 7 p.m.

The Flames (14-14, 7-8) are coming off of a loss to Oakland as they try to make one more push up the conference standings. Junior big man Tai Odiase leads UIC at 11.3 points per game as the former Homewood-Flossmoor product is also a solid rim protector.

Green Bay (16-11, 10-5) is still fighting for one of the conference's top spots as they're coming off of a win over Milwaukee. The Phoenix already own a four-point win over UIC this season at home in a close game.

Senior guard Charles Cooper is averaging 13.0 points per game as he's been one of the better guards in the conference this season.