Football: December 2010 Archives

IT'S GAME DAY!

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The day the Huskies have waited for all week is finally here -- Game Day!

Six buses left the team hotel at 12:15 p.m. MT and arrived at Bronco Stadium 15 minutes later. Sure it was three hours before kickoff, but the team was anxious to get going. They've spent the last hour and a half surveying the field and getting the lay of the land.

The setting here at Bronco Stadium is truly amazing and the view outside the press box is unbelievable. Just past the light standards above the east stands are the mountains. It's kind of a gray overcast day today, but it's still impressive to see the tops of the mountains just kissing the clouds.
 

SPECIAL VISIT

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Bowl week for the Northern Illinois University football team is all but over. All that's left is to play the game.


The Huskies began their day with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Breakfast. After breakfast, eight NIU football players; quarterback Chandler Harnish, wide receiver Landon Cox, running back Ricky Crider, defensive end Jake Coffman, safety Mike Sobol, linebacker Alex Kube, offensive tackle Trevor Olson and tight end Jason Schepler visited St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Boise.

 

The eight student-athletes who comprise NIU's Bowl Leadership Council, went around the hospital visiting with patients young and old. It was impressive watching these young men enter the hospital rooms of complete strangers and listening to the patients tell their stories was impressive to see. I followed Kube, Sobol, Cox and Crider as they visited patients in the Neuro wing and those rehabbing from serious trauma.

 

Each patient was happy to receive them and talk to the players about football, the upcoming game, where they were from and how great the people of Boise have been to Northern Illinois during their stay. The Huskies came across a high school football player that was overjoyed to meet the quartet. In keeping with the Christmas spirit, not only did the players visit with the patients, but they handed out gifts of t-shirts, hats and water bottles.

 

Harnish, Coffman, Schepler and Olson visited the pediatric wing and patients being treated for cancer. The group made one visit to a mother and her day-old paper. When she asked if any of the players wanted to hold her child, Chandler stepped up and held the infant gently in his arms.

 

The Huskies visit to St. Alphonsus was the final event they would participate in.  They hit the Blue Turf at Bronco Stadium for their final walk-thru before tomorrow's game with Fresno State.

 

Just a final closing thought on our week in Boise. To a man, every Huskie player has raved about their week here for the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl. Like the players every member of the travel party has had the same sentiment. The people of Boise have opened their arms and embraced the Huskies. It will be a trip we will never forget.



GARNERING NATIONAL ATTENTION

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The five Northern Illinois freshmen that went over to the Idaho State Capitol building has made national news. ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel heard about the quintet's visit with Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and posted a little blurb on their meeting with Gov. Otter in his blog today.

You can also find a preview of Saturday's uDrove Humanitarian Bowl by Andrea Adelson on ESPN.com's blog as well.

CHANCE ENCOUNTER

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Back row from left to right: Ryan Foley, C.J. Compher, Michael Gegner, Blake Goodell and Ricky Connors with Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter.

"Can we see the governor?"

That was the question a group of Northern Illinois University freshmen presented to the secretary of Idaho governor C.L. "Butch" Otter while touring the state capitol building in Boise today.

Fullbacks C.J. Compher and Ricky Connors, offensive linemen Michael Gegner and Blake Goodell, and defensive lineman Ryan Foley were doing some sight-seeing during their free time on Thursday afternoon and walked over to the capitol building to check it out. During their visit, they walked by Governor Otter's office and decided to stop in.  At the reception desk, they asked, "Can we see the governor?" not really expecting to meet him.

The secretary replied, "Let me see if he's up there."

The five freshmen got more than they bargained for. Not only did Governor Otter, a Boise State graduate, receive them, but he gave the Huskies the red carpet treatment.  He invited them into his office, posed for pictures, asked about the team , the prospects for Saturday's upcoming game and their experience in Boise so far.  He said he would be at the game and even hinted that he would be rooting for the team wearing Red and Black. (Don't tell Fresno State that.)     

In addition to their visit with the governor, the quintet stopped by the State Senate Assembly room where they (with permission) posed for pictures holding the gavel. 

It was an experience those guys will never forget. When Donna Turner and I bumped into them on the street in downtown Boise, they were still raving about the way they were treated.  It was another example of the welcoming hospitality the people of this city have extended to the Huskies throughout their stay here.

Be sure to check out the photo gallery on the blog later tonight for photos taken by Compher.

FUN AT 6,000 FEET

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It is Day Two here in Boise for the Northern Illinois University football team and it began early. The team boarded the buses at 7:45 a.m. and headed to Bogus Basin for a morning of tubing.

After getting through town, the buses headed up a slow and winding road up into the mountains. It was a scenic trip with the snow covered mountains on one side of the road and the valley on the other. The sunrise coming over the mountains made the views even more spectacular. It was pretty cool traveling up the mountain and seeing sign like "Elevation 4,000 Feet," "Elevation 5,000 Feet" and "Elevation 6,000 Feet."

Once up the mountain, the team couldn't wait to hit the tubing hill. For seasoned snow veterans like Minnesota native Trevor Olson, tubing took him back to his childhood. For guys like Tyler Pitt, from McRae, Ga., the snow opened him up to a whole new world. He did, however, have a nasty "incident" on his second run down the hill.

Pitt was going down the run, head first, but ended up getting turned around and was traveling backwards. His foot got caught on the ground tossing him off his tube and sending him tumbling for a bit. To add insult to injury, NIU defensive coordinator/safeties coach Jay Sawvel ran into him. Fortunately for both guys, only their pride was hurt. 

Once at the bottom, Pitt was introduced to another winter pastime - the snowball fights. After reaching the bottom of the hill, there was a lot of down time waiting for the tow to bring the players back to the top again for another run. The Huskies filled that time with intermittent snowball  fights. Public enemy No. 1 was redshirt- freshman quarterback Jordan Lynch. Lynch took great joy firing snowballs from the back of the line into the crowd of his teammates in the front.

Following this morning's tubing event, the Huskies went to downtown Boise to grab some lunch and explore the city a bit before heading over to Boise State's indoor practice facility for an hour and 40 minute workout.


DAY ONE RECAP

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It was a fun-filled first day of activities for the Northern Illinois University football team as the Huskies enjoyed a friendly bowling competition with their opponents in the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl, Fresno State, then enjoyed a delicious barbecue dinner and capping the night off by picking up and picking out their bowl gifts.

 

The first event of uDrove Humanitarian Bowl Week, Certified Angus Beef Bowl for Beef charity event pitted the Huskies against the Bulldogs at Westy's Garden Lanes in Garden City. The two teams represented four charities. NIU was bowling locally for the Idaho Foodbank and for Meals on Wheels of Sycamore back home.

 

Members of the NIU defense competed against the Fresno State offense and the Huskie offense took on the Bulldog defense. A player from each side of the ball bowled a frame for their respective teams. The Fresno State defense won the first game, 122-116, while the Huskie offense and Fresno defense tied 145-145 in their game.

 

Fresno State edged out the Huskies, 267-261. However, Northern Illinois raised a combined total of 1,244 pounds of beef for its two charities.

 

After a brief stop at the hotel, Northern Illinois then traveled across town to Barber Park Events Center for a Welcome Barbecue. The players enjoyed pulled pork, brisket, baked beans, fresh rolls and of course, potato salad. It was a fantastic meal!

 

The first evening in Boise ended for the team with a stop at the Gift Suite where the Huskies picked up their bowl swag. Players received a parka, gloves, a backpack, bowl hoodie and t-shirt among other items. The topper however, was the electronics gift suite. The Huskies had five points in which to spend at the table, with each item assigned a point value. For some, it was as one player put it, "The toughest decision of my life."

 

 If only life were that difficult.

 

Tomorrow's agenda has the Huskies tubing at Bogus Basin Ski Resort, before heading off to Boise State for their first practice of the week. They then head to Owyhee Plaza Hotel for dinner.

 

HUSKIES ARRIVE IN BOISE

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A quiet group of Huskies boarded five buses at approximately 5:30 a.m. this morning for the first leg, and first day, of the bowl trip to Boise, Idaho.   The buses picked up the group behind the Convocation Center and the most hazardous part of the trip may have been the journey from the car to the bus across a sheet of ice while carrying, or rolling, a bag carrying five days' worth of clothing.


Once filled, the buses set off for Rockford Airport where we rolled onto the tarmac and a very chilly group of TSA employees were waiting for the outdoor check-in procedure.  While it was slightly uncomfortable for those of us on the buses, it had to be freezing for those folks who had to stand out in the sub-zero wind chill for over an hour.


Everyone seemed to remember their ID and after a slight delay due to an extra-large trunk carrying some additional cold weather capes had to be partially emptied, the flight departed at approximately 9 a.m. (CST).  The pilot informed us that the flying time was 3:22 and every seat on the plane was filled, with administrators and coaches and their families at the front, followed by support staff (doctors, athletic trainers, equipment staff) and finally players.


Unlike a "normal" road trip which is limited to 65 players for MAC games and usually only a few more than that (72-74) for the non-conference season, nearly every player on the 2010 roster was able to make the Humanitarian Bowl trip.  In fact, a handful of staffers (including the Media Services crew who film practice, marketing and ticket office staff), had to take a commercial flight.  That group left campus at 3:30 am! 


There were a handful of "first time" flyers on the trip among the additional players, including rookie center Mike Gegner, junior college transfer Matt Battaglia and snapper Brian Mayer.  The group had a breakfast "snack" (bagel, nutri-grain bar) immediately upon board the plane and once airborne, were served a hot (well, semi-hot) breakfast of pancakes and sausage, orange juice, grapefruit and croissant.


As the plane descended into Boise, passengers on the left side of the plane got their first glimpse of the famous "blue turf" of Bronco Stadium.


The Miami Air flight was smooth and Northern Illinois landed in Boise at 11:30 am (Mountain Time).  The Huskies deplaned and got a full police escort to the hotel as traffic was stopped along the highways for the city's special guests.


Upon arrival at the hotel, Gegner reported that he "really enjoyed" the flight while Mayer said it was "fine" and that he slept almost the whole time.


We'll be back later to report on the "Bowl for Beef" - a competitive bowling event between the teams - and the Welcome Dinner and Gift Suite pick-up.  

MEDIA WATCH - DOEREN HIRE

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With the big news Monday of the hiring of Dave Doeren as the new NIU football coach, it's time for a media watch. We'll keep updating this area with pertinent articles to NIU Athletic Director Jeff Compher's choice to lead the Huskie Football program.

  • John Sahly of the Daily Chronicle filed this story, banking on a snow shoveling story both Compher and Doeren referenced during the hiring press conference
  • ESPN's Andrea Adelson posted this entry in her College Football Nation Blog - also snow-related
  • Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune wrote this about the hire
  • The Badgers had a take, offering this blog entry with words from Badger head coach Brett Bielema and AD Barry Alvarez
  • The Daily Herald's Lindsey Willhite had this to say, comparing the hire to when Joe Novak was named NIU's football coach
More to come...

DOEREN NAMED HEAD COACH

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The Huskies have hired Dave Doeren, former Wisconsin defensive coordinator, as their next head coach. Here's a quick coverage round-up:

Keep checking back. We'll link around the net as stories pop-up about the hiring.

SI Ranks the Bowls

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Sports Illustrated's annual ranking of the bowls from most interesting to... not as interesting is out. The Humanitarian Bowl featuring Northern Illinois and Fresno State checked in as the fourth-best bowl featuring two teams from outside the BCS automatic berth conferences. Overall, SI's Stewart Mandel placed the Huskies' game 23rd in his countdown (or count-up), and first among the MAC bowls. Here's what he had to say:

23. Humanitarian (Dec. 18): Northern Illinois (10-3) vs. Fresno State (8-4). The Bulldogs agreed to return to the blue turf less than a month after their 51-0 loss to Boise State. The formerly ranked Huskies will provide more even competition.

RR STAR'S PREVIEW OF MAC TITLE GAME

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Jay Taft of the Rockford Register Star filed his take on tomorrow night's MAC Championship in this story.

MORE MAC CHAMPIONSHIP COVERAGE

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Rick Armstrong has been a very busy man, pulling double duty working for the Beacon News and the Chicago Sun-Times. Armstrong caught up with former NIU head coach Joe Novak to find out where the Miami (OH) grad's loyalties will be on Friday in this feature story.

He also has an outstanding feature on NIU signal caller Chandler Harnish, that technically will run tomorrow, and this story on Vern Smith Leadership Award winner and MAC Offensive Player of the Year Chad Spann.

NIU COVERAGE IN THE TRIB

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Kill-Web.jpgThere are a pair of features on the Chicago Tribune's website today. Fred Mitchell posted his breakdown and prediction of Friday night's (6 p.m. CST, ESPN2) 2010 MAC Championship game against Miami (OH).

Mitchell's colleague, David Haugh, wrote this excellent feature of the Huskie's head man Jerry Kill. He talks about his rise from humble beginnings to one of the best at his profession.



VERN SMITH AWARD WINNER

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As you may have already heard, NIU tailback Chad Spann earned the Mid-American Conference's Vern Smith Leadership Award today. A former walk-on, who earned a scholarship two weeks into his freshman year, Spann joins former teammate Larry English and fellow Huskie tailback Garrett Wolfe. Scott Powers of ESPNChicago.com had a post on his blog today, as did Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com in her blog. Adelson went a step further naming the All-MAC Teams and specialty awards in her post.

MAC TITLE GAME PREVIEW

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Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune posted his take on the upcoming 2010 Marathon MAC Championship. Head coach Jerry Kill, linebacker Alex Kube and quarterback Chandler Harnish offer their keys to success against Miami (OH) Friday night.

DOME SWEET DOME

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Ford Field.jpgCurrently it's 22 degrees with flurries in DeKalb, Illinois. Right now in Detroit, it's a slightly warmer 30 degrees and cloudy. However, inside Ford Field, site of the 2010 MAC Championship, it's, well I'm not exactly sure, but I'm sure the thermostat is set above 65 degrees and no wind. Ideal conditions for a Huskie offense that has averaged 65 points a game the last three games in various weather conditions. As Jeremy Werner of the Daily Chronicle reports, the Huskies are looking forward to getting in out of the cold at Ford Field.


FORMER TEAMMATES FACING OFF

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Lynch.jpgWhen Jordan Lynch looks across at the opposite sideline in the 2010 MAC Championship Friday night at Ford Field, he'll see the face of a former teammate. Not one from Mt. Carmel, but from his other team. In the summer of 2009, Lynch was a member of USA Football's U-19 National Team that took the gold medal at the IFAF Junior World Championship in Canton, Ohio.

Lynch was one of two safeties for the Red, White and Blue. The other safety on the squad was Pat Hinkel. Hinkel is the starting free safety for the Miami Redhawks. Joe Frollo of USA Football posted this story on the former teammates today.