Tuesday, October 21, 2008





Thursday, October 16, 2008

Homecoming all about the fans

This homecoming week should be one for the ages.

Many call the NIU-Toledo matchup this weekend a one-sided rivalry. The situation is that NIU hates Toledo's guts, but they really could care less about beating us. Northern Star's Jerry Burnes is misinformed in saying

"NIU and Toledo are two of the conference’s premier programs historically, and in my opinion the biggest rivalry in the conference."

The CMU vs WMU rivalry is better. As is Toledo vs BGSU and Kent vs Akron. We'll have to start beating Toledo game-in and game-out to eventually consider this a two-sided rivalry.

Why do we hate the Toledo Rockets? Maybe its the fact that we've only been able to beat them one time (2005) since 1990. Toledo HC Tom Amstutz completely owned Joe Novak during his tenure here at NIU from 1996-2007. Both Toledo and NIU have been top dogs in the MAC for the last few years.

Games against the Rockets have screwed NIU out of MAC Championships in 2003 and 2004. In 2005, Garrett Wolfe and the Huskies finally managed to pull it out against the vaunted Rockets in Toledo. The "Fog Game" in 2006 we should have won, but there were some disputed coaching calls and a lack of getting Wolfe the ball. NIU hit rock bottom in their 2-7 2007 season, losing 70-21 in Toledo

However this is a new era in NIU Football with a new HC in Jerry Kill, which hopefully bring a new result to this one-sided history of matchups against the Rockets.

The Crowd Factor

If we want to win this game, we need the crowd to be intense and everybody needs to stay the entire game. Last week had a disappointing amount of fans (17,444), but Homecoming always seems to bring a huge crowd to the game. Our crowd really needs to step it up:

"[Coach Kill] challenged us about the towels but the towels didn’t really get it," said Farlow in respect to getting the crowd pumped. "So I decided to grab a white board and put ‘Get louder’ on it. And then John [Hopkins] helped me out by making another sign that said ‘Get up and get loud.’"

"Our crowd today was probably, not probably, was the difference in the game," Kill said. "I guarantee, if it would have been quite in that stadium [Miami] would have drove down and score."

Here's the video of Coach Kill thanking the fans that stayed and cheered:

Tuesday brought another article in the NStar urging fans to come to the HC game. I hope this sort of tactic works for Saturday because everybody on campus reads the school paper while passing time in class and such:

"It’s a lot easier to play on defense when your crowd is loud and getting into it," said NIU wide receiver Nathan Palmer after the game. "The fans’ energy is what really helped us."

"[The crowd] being loud at the end really helped our defense...they played with a lot more energy at the end," Palmer said.

"The fans were kind of making us mad at first," said NIU defensive lineman John Hopkins. "They weren’t getting up and they were dead."

"Come out to the game ready to cheer loud," Palmer said. "Lose your voice if you have to."

Also, Thunderstix will be back for this game, which is a huge plus and a tradition brought back to Huskie Stadium.

Monday, October 13, 2008

NIU finally grabs a close W

After losing 3 games so far this season by 4 points or less, the Huskies finally pick up that close win that they have been looking for beating the Redhawks 17-14.

Watching Miami in the last part of the game, I was sure we were about to find yet another way to lose a close game. Luckily, our defense is extremely solid this year, proving their worth in the last few games. Here are NIU's current national rankings:

#19 in Total Defense
#15 in Scoring Defense

In fact, our defense has given up only 1 offensive TD in the last 4 games (Tennessee).

CB Melvin Rice was a beast in the secondary, breaking up 2 passes while making 7 tackles. OLB Alex Kube finally had a good game making 5 tackles and an essential TFL. OLB Josh Allen got all the press for helping knock down the final pass by the Miami Redhawks.

QB DeMarcus Grady went down late in the 1st half with a minor ankle injury. I'm sure we were all surprised to see Chandler Harnish run out there to play the QB position. It seems like all our QBs go down at the same time during the game. Maybe they should just stop playing towards the end of the 2nd quarter.

Harnish surprised everybody by not only making plays with his arm, but his feet as well. He really has some guts and may have the poise to lead this team the next 3 years.

RB Me'co Brown was the unsung hero in the backfield rushing for 123 yds on only 16 carries. Chad Spann was a red-zone demon, forcing his way in to the end-zone in the 3rd quarter for the Huskies to go up 17-13.

WR Marcus Perez recovered from his eye injury nicely, catching 4 passes for 76 yds. 6'3" SO Landon Cox had a nice TD catch in the corner of the end-zone in the start of the 2nd quarter. He could be a red-zone threat for years.


Here's where it gets interesting.

First of all, we would have won this game by a much wider margin if K Mike Salerno would have made his FGs from 30 or 48 yds. He did, however, make a 38-yarder in the 1st quarter.

On the 48-yarder, the LS Nolan Owen recorded a false start which moved us back an extra 4 yds. Salerno had the length, but missed it wide-right. You can either place blame on Salerno or the offense for stalling and not punching it in to the end-zone.

That isn't all of the special teams blunders. In the weirdest play of the game, P Andy Dittbenner punts a "rugby" style punt right to Eugene Harris who in return ran right to the end-zone.

“Bad coaching on my part,” Kill said. “I’ve got to do a better job. Should have probably done something different. Instead of rugby punting it we should have gone the other way with it. That’s on me, not on the kid (Dittbenner).”

Overall, this was an excellent win that was an absolute necessity at this point in the season. Hopefully we can correct whatever mistakes that need to be corrected for next weeks homecoming showdown against the Toledo Rockets.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

All about the quarterbacks

We aren't the only team that has a revolving door at the QB position.

The Miami Redhawks HC Shane Montgomery wasn't happy with the performance of his incumbent starter in JR QB Daniel Raudabaugh in the first half of last Saturday's game against Temple. During halftime, the coach pulled the plug on DR and put in the lefty rFR Clay Belton. He didn't necessarily play better, going 14 of 22 for 147 yds and an INT.

However, it provides NIU something to watch out for at home Satuday. If Belton gets consistent playing time and performs well, we had better watch out. I just feel like the supporting cast around him really isn't helping either of these players out so far this season.

Who does Coach Kill fear from this Miami OH team?

Their punter.

"Field position. They have a great punter. Not a good punter, a great punter. He can kick it 60 yards with a 4.4 sec. hang time. He's a big time punter. He controls field position."

Jacob Richardson leads the country with 48.08 average yards per punt. Our guy Andy Dittbenner isn't too shabby averaging 41.61 ypp, ranking #36 in the nation and #2 in the MAC.


During this century, we are 3-0 against the Miami Redhawks winning in Oxford in 2002 and 2006. We won the last matchup in Dekalb 38-27 in 2005.

Miami may have the #2 total defense next to us, averaging 331.20 ypg, but are #9 in scoring defense allowing 30 ppg! This indicates that Miami just can't stop the big play so far this season, whether its on special teams or offense.

Miami ranks in the lower end of the MAC in the following categories:

Rushing offense (#13)
Total offense (#12)
Scoring offense (#13)
Pass efficiency defense (#12)
Turnover margin (#11)
Passing efficiency (#13)
Sacks allowed (#10)

Injury Updates (Chronicle)

-Mike Sobol is listed as the starting SS for Saturday's game despite a concussion against Tennessee. May see limited playing time.

-WR Marcus Perez is ready to go after sustaining an eye injury vs Tennessee

-QB Dan Nicholson re-injured his non-throwing shoulder vs Tennessee on a hard hit. He initially hurt his shoulder @ the WMU game. He is unlikely to see much time on the practice field at all this week and is doubtful against Miami OH.

-QB Chandler Harnish started jogging this week and may participate in some drills. He is an emergency option for Saturday. I predict he will be able to go against rival Toledo for our must-win homecoming game.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Playing cards without a full deck

A 9-13 loss. Another close one gets away.

Just 4 points away from a "lowly" MAC team upsetting a perennial SEC power in the Tennessee Volunteers.

Just as we barely lost to WMU 26-29 after starting QB Chandler Harnish went down, our starting QB in Knoxville went down just before the end of the first half injuring his non-throwing shoulder.

The senior QB Dan Nicholson took a beating in this game, leaving a gaping hole open at the position. To fill this position was redshirt freshman DeMarcus Grady. Grady all season has been our "mobile" QB filling in nice in goalline situations. This time he was thrown to the wolves against one of the best defenses statistically and athletically in the country.

We had lost so much experience with Danny N going down in the first half. The game was tied and this was a defensive struggle. DeMarcus Grady probably doesn't have the entire playbook in his arsenal at this point. 4 for 10 passing for 39 yds. 35 of those yards were on one deep play to another RS freshman Willie Clark on the sidelines. He made some impact on the ground rushing for 52 yds on 15 carries.

The problem was that Grady just isn't ready to play against an SEC with his lack of his experience. The consensus was that we should have passed more and been less conservative. More chances should have been taken down the field. There was one overthrown pass to Nate Palmer, but there should have been more of those kind of passes.

The running game wasn't effective, but who has been against one of the best defenses in the country. Justin Anderson instead of Me'co Brown should have been running inside because of his bigger, bruising body.

The defense stepped up against an inept Vols offense. Both DE Larry English and DB Mel Rice forced fumbles. English also managed to sack the QB 2.5 times and acheive MAC West Defensive player of the week.

#25 DB Tracey Wilson was getting run over during Tennessee's outside running game late. I think he was playing nickel DB or helping out replacing the SS Sobol as he went out with a concussion. I hope the young redshirt freshman can put on some more muscle or improve his tackling technique as his career goes on.

Special teams was decent with Mike Salerno going 3 for 4 on FGs. #33 DB Patrick George managed to block a punt on special teams, our 3rd of the season.


Players that didn't play:

WR Matt Simon (Heel)
RB Montell Clanton (Ankle)
QB Chandler Harnish (Ankle)

Players hurt in this game:

SS Mike Sobol (Concussion)
WR Marcus Perez (Concussion?)
QB Dan Nicholson (Non-throwing shoulder)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The only Tenn I see

4 games in, this Northern Huskies team is still a mystery to me.

I do know one thing though: Our team has talent.

QB: One QB (Harnish) goes down with a serious ankle injury, as a veteran (Nicholson) and a mobile young gun (Grady) step in and perform at a premium.

The question: Can Danny N stay healthy and can DeMarcus Grady continue to figure out to make reads playing Division I football?

RB: 5 guys rotate, with a true freshman (Me'co Brown) getting the bulk of the carries. The 1,000 yard rusher from last year (Justin Anderson) was the 5th tailback to enter the game last Saturday.

The question:
Will Me'co Brown be ready to play Saturday after sustaining a minor foot injury against the EMU Eagles?

WR: Gone is the much-scruitinized WR Britt Davis from the top of the depth chart after not making the trip to WMU. Consistent veterans Matt Simon and Greg Turner lead the way with this unit. Redshirt freshman Nate Palmer has had a hot start to his career.

The question: Will Matt Simon be ready to play Saturday with his injured foot? Will NatePalm add some consistency to his fledgling game? Will Britt Davis make any impact this season?

O-Line: The O-Line hasn't looked tremendous until our last game against EMU. It seems to me that the production increased tremendously by putting Jason Onyebuagu in at LG coming back from his injury.

The question: Can rFR Trevor Olson continue his success at LT? Can Onyebuagu continue to stay healthy and be the driving force at LG?

Defense: After 2 tough games starting off the season, our young D has looked tremendous in the last 2 games allowing only 3 points.

The question: Were the last 2 games just blips on the radar? Is our defense actually the best in the MAC or have we just played bad teams? Can Alex Kube step up at OLB?

Personally, I can't answer these questions, because they are such big mysteries. As I hope for the best, a lot will come through the wash against a decent SEC team in the Tennessee Volunteers.

Across the board, the Vols have more talent than us all around. Except our punter Andy Dittbenner is 10-fold better than whatever Tenn has been throwing out there the last few games. He was fortunate to acheive the MAC ST player of the week for his performance against EMU.

Oh, and Tennessee isn't even set that much on a starting QB at the moment as well.

Also, here's the injury report per Huskie Wire:

RB Me'co Brown - Probable (Foot)

MLB T.J. Griffin - Probable (Foot)

RB Montell Clanton - Probable (Ankle)

WR Matt Simon - Questionable (Heel)

QB Chandler Harnish - Out (Ankle)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

NIU @ EMU Live Blog



-I don't see why EMU picked us as their homecoming game. But then again I don't see a team that they can beat in the MAC West. And we only won 2 games last year.

-EMU Cheerleaders - Not looking so hot

-EMU Linebacker Daniel Holtzclaw seems like he has been playing at EMU forever

-Hyping up Dan Nicholson? Hope he lives up to the hype

1st Quarter

-Huge boot by Mike Salerno out of the end-zone

-Man, there is nobody in these stands

-HUGE INT for Bradley "Playmaker" Pruitt. 2nd week in a row he's grabbed one.

-Montell Clanton gets the start today at TB

-Wow that was the worst Onyebuagu pronunciation I've ever heard. Did these announcers read the media guide?

-Run for no gain, bad rollout by Danny, bad screen to Greg Turner. Missed field goal. What a wasted opportunity. Hopefully this will not come back to bite us later in the game.


-We can't keep giving up so many yards from the QB rushing the ball. The EMU QB McMahon apparently has a hurt shoulder. A good opportunity for us, but I hope he's OK. Former starter Andy Schmitt goes in for the eagles.

-ANOTHER great play by Bradley Pruitt. He really is making the most out of his time at CB.

-LB blitz by Josh Allen forces Schmitt to throw the ball away on a 3rd and 10.


-Me'co Brown gets the next series and starts off strong with a nice carry

-I guess WR Matt Simon isn't playing today for some reason (Injured foot). What is going on with our WRs?

-Danny N almost throw up a pick and play is reversed to an incomplete pass

-Greg Turner is getting the bulk of the receptions today with the absence of Simon at WR

-It seems like Me'co Brown is just one broken tackle away from a TD on every play.


-Me'co Brown TD UNTOUCHED!!! 7-0. Great blocks by RG Dan Keller and RT Jon Brost.

-Salerno is kicking the crap out of the ball through the endzone

-Schmitt throws a pick right to LB McCarthy. Kyle Orton style.

-DeMarcus Grady does what he does best: Run the ball FOR A TD!!! 14-0

-EMU QB McMahon is in a sling now

2nd Quarter

-I'm NEVER having Burritoville again in my life

-Josh Allen with a huge play in the backfield. He is having a great game. Interesting note is that the announcer said that Kill announced at some point that he was hi most omplete linebacker.

-Mike Krause LAYED THE WOOD on a WR. WOW

-EMU doesn't convert the 4th and 3. Larry English is causing havoc.


-Montell Clanton with another run. Our RBs aren't getting touched on these big plays. Good play by a healthy? Jason Onyebuagu.

-We just had 2 fullbacks blocking for Me'co. Couldn't get it in though.

-Nice little reverse by Marcus Perez for a TD! 21-0

-Freshman DT Adam Coleman with a nice tackle

-Our defense looks awesome in this gmae for how long they've been out there. Unlike last year, our secondary is actually covering people.

-EMU just misses a FG. Let's hope for a shutout.


-Me'co Brown is looking like the "special" back that Jerry Kill is looking for in this offense and getting the bulk of the carries.

-Haven't seen much of Britt Davis, who must be officially in Coach Kill's (or PJ Fleck's) doghouse

-TE Reed Cunningham is performing consistently, which is key for this team to perform. A decent TE is something we lacked completely last year.

-All of our running backs are productive. Brown, Clanton, Spann. All having good games.

-This is too easy. FB Kyle Skarb with his first career TD catch. 28-0 Huskies.

-McCarthy with a TEXTBOOK tackle

-I'm starting to think how this game would turn out if EMU's starting QB McMahon didn't get knocked out of the game. It would have changed the whole pace of the game with the offense being more successful and giving EMU more of a breather on defense. This game is nice for our offense, but overall I would say this may turn out to be an inconclusive victory.

-P Andy Dittbenner is locating inside the 20 a ton

4th Quarter (Huskie B Team)

-Me'co Brown goes down with a leg injury. I hope its not serious and that he can return. He really is the star of the game.

-We are SWARMING on defense. Even now.

-LB Tim McCarthy is having a banner game.

-QB DeMarcus Grady still perfect passing for the season.

-Justin Anderson in garbage time? Crazy. We have 5 capable running backs.

-The ice on Me'co Brown is on his lower foot area. It can't be that bad since he is still out there on the sidelines. He is limping off the field after the game unassisted, so I am confidence in his return this season.

-Safety by DJ Pirkle. He's having a great game.

37-0 W

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Sycamore Stomp

You all saw the massacre that was the 48-3 beatdown of the Indiana State Sycamores of Terre Haute, IN. You have to be careful with what you take away from this game because of how bad ISU is as a team.



We would have even won by a larger margin if it weren't for fumbles by both freshman Me'co Brown on a punt return and DeMarcus Grady in a 1st and goal situation. The Brown fumble was going to happen one of these days due to his lack of experience. Good thing we were up 31-0 at the time.

However, our defense did a tremendous job forcing 3 picks and a fumble Saturday for the Huskies. Usually our defense hardly ever causes turnovers, even against bad I-AA/FCS teams.

Due to all the turnovers, we were able to control the ball and move on the ground all game and gain 285 yds rushing by 6 different players.

QB DeMarcus Grady completed his first pass ever for a TD. I guess if he can get the yards on the ground, is there any need for him to throw the ball? The answer obviously is yes, eventually he will have to pass at a minimum, but he is performing well for right now.


Watching the the game and the highlights MadDawgz put up, I came to these conclusions:

Neither LG Kevin Skatrud or RG Dan Keller looked great at all watching video. Jason Onyebuagu can't be 100% healthy. I think we may need some more athletic guards on our roster to have a much more efficient running game. LT Trevor Olson rebounded with a great game Satuday.

MLB TJ Griffin made the most of his split time with Tim McCarthy and made some superior plays. McCarthy was awesome as well. It's excellent to see his intensity back with the team as a senior leader. He's been through so much turmoil throughout his career I can't see what he does this season in his 5th year.

CB Bradley Pruitt jumped on that interception by a mile. It wasn't even close. Kyle Orton-esque play by ISU.

DBs Patrick George and David Bryant DESTROYED that one guy in the 2nd quarter, which was an awesome highlight hit. Possible YouTube upload?

Bryant also did a good job punching the ball out of the ISU QB's hand in the 3rd quarter, as Sobol picked it up. George made a nice play on the lobbed pass the ISU QB threw up in the 3rd as well.

Right now it's important to build off this victory and focus on next week's conference matchup with EMU on the road.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Soccer Update/ISU Preview

In case you haven't checked out either our soccer teams, GO!


The men's team is 5-0-2 (I hate ties) and are fresh off of an upset of #2 SMU today in OT. What a HUGE win for our program.

The next chance you have to catch the men's team at home is next Friday the 26th at home against Florida Atlantic. Conference play starts off with a bang a week after that on Saturday, October 4th against MAC rival Akron.

The women's team is 4-0-3 and start conference play next Friday as well @ 4 PM against Bowling Green.

I feel bad I haven't made a trip out to see the new Track/Soccer Field Complex and really want to check it out next Friday and watch both teams play throughout the day.

In basketball news, Chauncey Billups hooped it up with the Huskies the other day.

What to expect tomorrow

It's been too long since a home game for the NIU Huskies. We really need to get that winning taste back in our mouths. Indiana State is definitely a team that you can work on things against, as indicated from their record from 2005 to now. The game has been added to ESPN Gameplan, so fans across the country can check out the Huskies play on Comcast.

All signs point to QB Dan Nicholson starting the game tomorrow, as redshirt freshman DeMarcus Grady can shift in and play in certain situations. Can DeMarcus throw the ball?

"His strength is his athleticism, his weakness is experience," Kill said. "But he can throw the ball."

"I didn't throw a lot in high school but when I did, I was effective," he said.

He credits quarterbacks coach Pat Poore with helping him improve his footwork and throwing mechanics and Nicholson with helping him learn to read defenses better.

"Last year on the scout team I didn't have to read the defense," he said. "That's what this system is all about."

He was glad he didn't have to think about his debut.

"It was a blessing to me (getting thrown into the mix unexpectedly at Western Michigan)," he said.

With more reps in the last two weeks, he's beginning to feel much more comfortable.

"I like this coaching staff because they're teaching me to play the position the right way." NIU Update

Indiana State is having a QB rotation as well, but ours is more effective:

"The thing that's really amazed me and is we're probably the only team in the country to go through three quarterbacks in two weeks and we still moved the ball,' said Kill, who credits all the work all the signal callers got this fall with a new coaching staff continuing to install a new system.

Also, P Andy Dittbenner's excellent punting is getting noticed, as he has been added to the Ray Guy award watch list.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Neutral Site Games: The Other Side

September 1st 2007, the Iowa Hawkeyes take on the Northern Illinois Huskies in the first FCS game played at Soldier Field in over a decade. Soldier Field is sold out months in advance in anticipation of the contest. Huskie and Hawkeye fans alike see the game as a great opportunity for both schools to play in a NFL stadium, on Lake Michigan, on Labor Day weekend. Both schools have activities planned throughout the city including Iowa Day at Wrigley Field. The Hawkeyes win a defensive game 16-3, but both teams go onto have sub-par 2007 seasons.

Fast forward fifty-four weeks later, and you find a fan base up in arms over the seemingly forgone conclusion of playing Wisconsin in 2008 at the same venue. After seeing BCS opponents Wake Forest, Maryland, and Iowa State come to DeKalb in a two year span, a BCS team has not traveled to Huskie Stadium in five years. Instead, NIU has played home out of conference games against Southern Illinois (twice), Tennessee Tech, Temple (at the time), Indiana State (twice), and finally Navy this season. They want to see better opponents, and nobody can blame them for that.

According to a UW official, the likely scenario appears to be a game at Soldier Field against Northern Illinois. The Huskies are scheduled to play host to UW on Oct. 24 next season in DeKalb, Ill., though that appears likely to change in the wake of the talks between the schools. “They’re driving it but we’re excited about it,” the UW official said of facing the Huskies at Soldier Field. “We have a big fan base down there and it is a pro venue.

However those who do not see the good reason to play this game at Soldier Field are truly being selfish. Yes, we as fans have to make sacrifices and pay more then we would if the game was at with Huskie Stadium, but to a mid major school with a small football budget, the money that NIU will receive for this game is too good to pass up. Fans can concoct ways to make more money by having the game in DeKalb by charging a premium for the Wisconsin game and making students pay for tickets, but in the end you alienate your fan base as much as you do by having the game at Soldier Field. The athletic department is run by people who are better at their job than people on a message board, and fans need to have faith in them. Northern made between a million and a million and a half dollars playing at Soldier Field and with a program that is desperately in need of an indoor practice facility and a new press box, the money is too much to pass up.

I think that it's a great idea to be able to play at Soldier Field, the home of the Chicago Bears. More importantly, having a game at a professional stadium will give us more well-needed publicity and also will help greatly with our recruiting.-Britt Davis

In the end, we as fans make think it is all about them, but really it is about the student-athletes who leave everything out on the field every Saturday. To play in a professional venue is a special opportunity that most collegiate do not get the chance to do. It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to showcase their skills on the biggest stage, against a BCS opponent. Good for them, and good for NIU.