Live Blog! 2009 Spring Preview!

GO HUSKIES Don't forget!  Larry English could be NIU's first-ever first-round NFL Draft pick today!
GO HUSKIES
Don't forget! Larry English could be NIU's first-ever first-round NFL Draft pick today!
GO HUSKIES

April 25, 2009

10:53 a.m.
Russell Houghtaling and Brett McWethy have just arrived at the Tailgate Showdown, located in the tent immediately adjacent to Huskie Stadium. One benefit of working athletics, folks, is free food. Neither of us ate breakfast this morning, and we're ready to stuff our faces. Our taste buds are watering, and we're ready to provide you with all the sights, sounds, and of course tastes, of this great annual event.

The burgers smell delicious. Russell is running around with our Flip-Cam, recording the food samples and getting some interviews with folks as the event officially starts. Stay tuned to this blog and "Huskie Happenings" for our video series.

11:20 a.m.
OK, we've made our first rounds, and sampled the Huskie Tailgaters (minus the restaurants). We'll get to them later; we wanted to mingle with the people, and get a feel for the fresh-made dishes for our next entry.

Our first stop was at the "Marck of Excellence" table, the defending Best Huskie Cooks. We sampled their signature chili, which was delicious. It certainly didn't appear like any other chili, with its look and texture. Russell's comment was that is tasted almost like a burrito in a bowl. It was complete with chicken and beans, but the best part about it was the opportunity to "dress up" the dish. We both included the Halapeno peppers, dubbed "not that spicy" by the cooks. I disagree; it was very spicy, so much so that Russell didn't include the peppers in his first bite. At this point, the chili could be near the top of our list.

The "Marck of Excellence" table also included a "Mexi-Mix" roll, which was comprised of mostly sour cream. Right now, we're undecided on what we think. It was tasty, but a little rich.

OK, time for some more food. We actually visited three tables the first time around and were going to blog about all three, but we're hungry again. We promise you a full report after we stuff our faces more.

11:42 a.m.
OK, we're back. We had more chili, bourban beans, and there was also a sample of Fatty's famous "Potato Salad," which we didn't taste, because we've both had it before. Back to our first round.

Another favorite of ours was the Kielbasa, provided by "OOO-AAAHH." We both "oo-ed" and "aa-hh-ed" upon sampling this dish. It was covered in a sweet sauce, and had a charred, but tasty, exterior. At this point, 4.5 stars was our first judging. Delicious indeed.

By the way, it's a nice turnout here, probably about 200 hungry (and thirsty) people. As we reported earlier this week, 18 cooks were signed up for the event, double the amount that was in the "field" last year. Jim Lentz, a 1979 alum, just told me that he has sold eight t-shirts promoting the event. Gotta love that Huskie support!

The bourban beans had an appropriate name. Basically, the recipe was beans, and bourban. It's that simple. We're still walking straight, but it was not difficult to recognize the recipe.

OK, hungry again. Talk to you soon!

12:03 p.m.
OK, starting to feel a little bloated. But that's what we came here for. We just completed our final round with the "community cooks." We saved what we were told was the best for last; the Victor E. Tacos (we'll have a video interview with the cooks posted later). Russell went with the chicken, and I stuck to beef. What sold me the most was the "guacamole with a kick" sauce, as it was described. It was certainly the difference in our opinion. Russell adds that he appreciated the "homemade, geniune" preparation and taste. His actually turned out more like a fajita.

Now we'll turn our attention to the restaurants, and then load up on what we enjoyed the most for a little "afternoon snack" in the Huskie Stadium press box. Oh yeah, there's cake here, too.

12:23 p.m.
THE DESSERT SHOWDOWN
Russell is stuffed, so we decided to engage in the dessert showdown while he could still swallow food comfortably. The showdown was between the cake by "Sweet Dreams" in DeKalb, and the fudge from "Steve E.'s Fudge Shoppe" in Sycamore. I'm a cake guy at heart, so it's a lot for me to say that I preferred the fudge. Russell went the other way; he enjoyed the cake a little more; in fact, I think he scarfed it down in two bites.

The winners of the Tailgate Showdown will be announced in less than 20 minutes, so we'll provide you the results as soon as we can! Don't forget about the live blog from Huskie Stadium, and the NFL Draft this afternoon!

1 p.m. - WRAPPING UP THE TAILGATE SHOWDOWN
We thoroughly enjoyed indulging ourselves at the Tailgate Showdown, and will have the results in shortly. Now we're over at the Huskie Stadium press box, and both the Red and White teams are warming up, readying for the Spring Preview.

One more interesting storyline from the Showdown: We ran into 1979 alumnus, and former track and field/cross country participant Greg Gamble. He is participating in a social networking promotion on brickfish.com entitled "Believe in the Run." Participants create a video or photo with a detailed description explaining his or her own personal commitment, passion and belief in the run. Gamble's photo currently ranks eighth out of the 325 total entries. To vote for Gamble (you can do it once per day), click here and vote for the guys with the frost-covered hair and eyebrows, listed under "NIUHarrier."

1:22 p.m.
The offense started the game with six-straight completions, highlighted by DeMarcus Grady's 3-for-4 effort through the air, leading to a 30-yard field goal. The third offensive series just wrapped up with an incomplete pass by redshirt freshman Brandon Rogers.

1:27 p.m.
A total of four offensive series were started from the 30-yard line; Grady's-led 50-yard drive was the lone possession that resulted in points scored. Now, the offense has shifted back to its own six-yard line. 2008 starting quarterback Chandler Harnish is leading this series, and is off to a 5-of-5 start through the air, for a total of 27 yards, unofficially. Me'co Brown has rushed the ball seven times for 41 yards.

1:34 p.m.
NIU's lack of healthy running backs to end the spring has been well-documented. Brown has seen the majority of the carries today, and just rushed for 24 yards, in this the third series beginning from the six-yard line for the offense. Ricky Crider has also seen action the backfield.

ANOTHER SCORE! Brown's last two rushes have accounted for 74 yards, including a 55-yard dash to the end zone. Brown started up field along the right sideline, before cutting back left to the middle of the field, and out-running his counterparts from the defensive secondary. Brown looks strong, and certainly is the frontrunner to be the Huskies' starting halfback as the spring wraps up. He has 11 carries for an unofficial total of 128 yards.

Now, we shift to the offense beginning its series' at the 40-yard line.

1:47 p.m.
There have been some nice defensive plays in the last two series. John Hopkins just recorded his second sack, while David Bryant, Spencer Williamson, Adam Coleman, Sean Progar-Jackson, D.J. Pirkle and Kyle Jenkins have combined for eight deflections. The wind has really picked up; all 13 flags are blowing directly toward the Yordon Center, the same direction the offense is heading.

1:56 p.m.
TOUCHDOWN! Harnish just completed a nice 11-yard scoring strike to redshirt sophomore tight end Jack Marks. Harnish is now 8-for-12 through the air, for a total of 58 yards, and that touchdown, his first of the game. Other notes: Defensive tackle D.J. Pirkle has one tackle-for-loss, along with two deflections. At the end of the scrimmage (weather permitting), the 2008 NIU team will be presented with its Independence Bowl rings.

Many seniors from last year's team are down on the sidelines, along with safety Dustin Utschig, a 2006 graduate. Unfortunately, the rain just stepped it up a level; it is now pouring on Huskie Stadium, and a good portion of the crowd just left. Hopefully it stops in time for the ring ceremony. We can see the softball game out to our left, and the tarp just went on the infield. That single-game contest versus Eastern Michigan was pushed up two hours (it was originally slated to begin at 2 p.m.) to try to squeeze it in before the rain. That game is tied, 3-3, in the bottom of the ninth inning.

2:08 p.m.
The game (preview) has been called, after lighting struck, combined with a considerable amount of thunder in the distance. Looks like the ring and NIU senior ceremonies will be presented in the Yordon Center. Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate!

Harnish finished 8-for-12 for 58 yards with a touchdown; his longest pass went for 19 yards. Grady was 5-for-10 through the air, for 47 yards, and had a long pass of 18 yards.

We'll have complete, unofficial stats posted shortly.

2:42 p.m.

OK, final stats are as follows (forgive me for repeating Harnish's and Grady's)
PASSING
Chandler Harnish: 8-12, 58 yards, 1 touchdown, longest completion of 19 yards
DeMarcus Grady: 5-10, 47 yards, longest completion of 18 yards

RECEIVING
Ron Walker: 3 receptions for 29 yards, longest reception of 17 yards
Nathan Palmer: 2 receptions for 19 yards, longest reception of 18 yards
Landon Cox: 2 receptions for 16 yards, longest reception of 12 yards
Dan Edem: 2 receptions for 25 yards, longest reception of 19 yards
Jack Marks: 1 reception for 11 yards, 1 touchdown, longest reception of 11 yards

RUSHING
Me'co Brown: 18 rushes for 145 yards, 1 touchdown, longest rush of 17 yards
Ricky Crider: 10 rushes for 34 yards, longest rush of 10 yards

DEFENSE
Victor Jacques: 6 tackles
Tracy Wilson: 6 tackles
Donald Smith: 4 tackles
Tommy Davis: 3 tackles
Zach Larsen: 3 tackles, 1 TFL (-3)
Phil Brown: 3 tackles
D.J. Pirkle: 1 tackle, 1 TFL (-2), 2 pass breakups
David Bryant: 2 tackles, 2 pass breakups
Kyle Jenkins: 1 tackle, 1 sack (-5), 1 TFL (-1), 1 pass breakup
Adam Coleman: 1 tackle, 1 pass breakup
John Hopkins: 2 tackles, 2 sacks (-1, -1), 2 TFL
Sean Progar-Jackson: 1 pass breakup
Mike Lepper: 2 tackles, 1 TFL (-2)
Spencer Williamson: 1 tackle, 1 pass breakup

And for the winners of the Tailgate Showdown ...
Best Restaurant Cook: Shelley's
Best Tailgate: OOH-AHH
Best Huskie Spirit: Huskie Road Crew
Best Cook: Victor E. Tacos