Daily Herald
NIU to meet S. Florida in International Bowl
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 12/7/2009 12:18 AM

Northern Illinois interrupted its team banquet Sunday night for some breaking news.

With everyone inside the Holmes Student Center listening to the conversation, International Bowl president Don Loning told NIU athletic director Jeff Compher the Huskies need to pack their passing game and their passports.

In the school's first game outside the continental United States, NIU faces South Florida on Jan. 2 in Toronto (11 a.m., ESPN2).

The Huskies and Bulls share 7-5 records, but South Florida lost five of its last seven games to tie for fourth in the Big East.

"Playing a BCS school I think is important," said Jerry Kill, the first coach to lead NIU to bowls in back-to-back years. "I think that's what we have to do in the direction we're going in our program."

While NIU didn't beat anyone with a .500 record this year, South Florida's peak came with a 30-19 victory over a 9-win West Virginia squad on Oct. 30.

"They're very athletic," Kill said. "I mean very, very athletic. We'll see more speed than we've seen all year."

NIU's defense will benefit, though, from nose tackle Brian Lawson's return from a hand injury that cost him the last six games.

Lawson's presence allows second-team all-MAC pick Jake Coffman to move to his natural defensive end spot.