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The Northern Illinois Huskies lost just two games last year.
But the two games they lost have left bad tastes in their mouth which they hope to cleanse out in their season-opener Saturday at Iowa.
The first defeat came against these Hawkeyes in last year's opener at Soldier Field. It was the last time they'd lose, too, on the road to an unlikely appearance in the Orange Bowl. But they also dropped that high-profile game to Florida State, and with it being the most recent game they played, it's left a rather unpleasant feeling heading into the 2013 campaign.
"We have an idea who we are," head coach Rod Carey said Tuesday. "We don't yet completely know who we are. The only way to figure that out is through trials and tribulations."
"I'm really anxious to get back out on the field," quarterback Jordan Lynch said. "The last game we played, we lost, and I know I'm speaking for our team, we have a bad taste in our mouth. We're excited to play Iowa."
Last season, Iowa's victory stopped what could have ended in an undefeated regular season for the Huskies before it started. And, while the Huskies are receiving votes in both polls and are considered by many to be the better team in this year's matchup vs. the Hawkeyes, the game will be played at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, making a victory no easy task.
"Well, it's their fans first off," Carey said of what makes Kinnick just a tough place to play. "It's not just the building. It's the people in it. They have a great fan base. They do their homework on their opponents, and they're right on top of you. It's a small sideline, so they're right on top of you. Even the end zones are right on top of you. It's a great college football venue, I can tell you that."
The main attraction in Saturday's game will be the quarterbacking matchup, which pits Northern's Lynch — who could wind up as a Heisman candidate if his numbers look anything like they did last year — against Iowa's Jake Rudock, a sophomore making his first career start.
For Lynch, who ranked second in the nation last year with 4,953 total offensive yards, he said the difference between the start of last season and the start of this one is huge.
"I would say it's a night-and-day difference," Lynch said. "I have 14 starts under my belt. I'm more comfortable. I feel like I'm starting to teach more people now the offense. I'm starting to line people up and the game is starting to slow down for me, so I would say it's a night-and-day difference."
If the Huskies are going to continue on the unbelievable success they experienced a year ago, it'll start by beating one of the teams they couldn't beat last season.