The International Bowl is played for the fourth time as USF takes on Northern Illinois in Toronto. The BIG EAST has gone 3-0 in the International Bowl with wins by Cincinnati, Rutgers and Connecticut. The annual matchup features the BIG EAST and Mid-American conferences. The game is played at the Rogers Centre, which was the world’s first domed stadium to have a retractable roof.
USF and Northern Illinois have met twice previously. The schools played a two-game series in 2001 and 2002 with the home team winning each meeting. The Bulls were 37-6 winners in Tampa in the most recent meeting Sept. 7, 2002.
USF head coach Jim Leavitt is 94-57 in his 12th season at USF and overall.
Northern Illinois head coach Jerry Kill is 13-12 in his 2nd season at Northern Illinois and overall.
117-69, 16th season as collegiate head coach
USF made its first bowl appearance in the 2005 season and the Bulls have been fixtures in the postseason each year since then. The International Bowl will mark USF’s fifth consecutive appearance in a bowl game. The Bulls are 2-2 in their previous bowl games after defeating Memphis 41-14 in last year’s St. Petersburg Bowl.
Senior QB Matt Grothe set the BIG EAST career record for total offense (10,875 yards) at Western Kentucky in the second game of the season, but suffered a season-ending knee injury the following week against Charleston Southern.
Redshirt freshman QB B.J. Daniels has capably stepped in behind center and has thrown for 1,766 yards and 12 touchdowns with 9 interceptions. He is also the Bulls’ leading rusher with 798 yards and 9 touchdowns.
USF finished in a 5th-place tie with UConn in the Big East at 7-5, 3-4. The Bulls were 1-3 in Big East road games with losses at Pitt, Rutgers and UConn. However, USF notched a huge road win for its state recruiting efforts with a 17-7 victory over Florida State in Tallahassee in the first game ever played between the two teams.
USF ranks 1st against the pass in the Big East and 27th nationally. The Bulls are 6th in the 8-team Big East in stopping the run, and 50th nationally, yet they have held the top four backs in the conference to less than their per-game averages. West Virginia's Noel Devine (42 yards), UConn's Jordan Todman (73 yards) and Syracuse's Delone Carter (43 yards) didn't even come close to their normal production. Pitt's Dion Lewis had 111 yards and 2 TD's, but he ran for more against 7 other opponents and averaged 136.7 per game.
The defense is led by an outstanding tandem of defensive ends in Jason Pierre-Paul and George Selvie, a 2009 CFP All-American. Despite being double-teamed and triple-teamed, Selvie had 3 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. With so much attention paid to Selvie, Pierre-Paul came from the other side for 4.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. LB Kion Wilson led the team in tackles with 98, of which 46 were solo and 8.5 were tackles for loss.
Northern Illinois is making back-to-back appearances in bowl games for the first time in program history. The Huskies have reached a bowl in the first two seasons of head coach Jerry Kill’s tenure. NIU has played in just four bowl games in its history and is 2-2 with losses in its last two. The Huskies fell to Louisiana Tech 17-10 in last year’s Independence Bowl.
This season, Northern Illinois finished second in the West Division of the Mid-American Conference. The Huskies had a rough road slate that included trips to Big Ten members Wisconsin, Purdue and both MAC division-winners - Ohio and Central Michigan. The Huskies lost to Wisconsin and Ohio by 8 points or less, and defeated Purdue 28-21.
The Huskies lead the MAC in rushing offense, and rank 17th nationally, with 202.4 yards per game. Northern Illinois also leads the MAC in total defense, and ranks 27th nationally, with 323.6 yards per game.
Northern Illinois had three players chosen to the All-Mid-American Conference First Team offense — RB Chad Spann, C Eddie Adamski and OG Jason Onyebuagu.
Spann joined the team as a walk-on, but finished the regular season with 945 rushing yards. His 19 TD's set a new school record, besting such notable past stars as Garrett Wolf and Michael "the Burner" Turner. Spann is the focal point of an offense that has averaged roughly two running plays for every pass attempt.
Sophomore QB Chandler Harnish has thrown for 1,540 yards and 11 touchdowns with just 5 interceptions in nine games. Fellow sophomore DeMarcus Grady saw considerable action, throwing for 280 yards and running for 330.
LB Jake Coffman is the top playmaker on defense with team highs of 7.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. LB Cory Hanson has three interceptions and is second on the team with 80 tackles. SS Tracy Wilson has a team-high 86 tackles.