Aug. 14, 2010
DeKALB - The Northern Illinois football team scrimmaged for over two hours, Saturday, then signed autographs and met with Huskie supporters of all ages at the annual NIU Football Fan Day.
The event offered an opportunity for fans to pick up their season tickets, meet Victor E. Huskie and get sideline close to the action on the field. They saw both sides of the ball make big plays, though neither the offense nor the defense could be clearly defined as the winner of the day.
"I thought (Thursday's scrimmage) was good in a lot of ways, and I thought today was good in different ways," NIU head coach Jerry Kill said.
Momentum started on the side of the NIU defense, as sacks by junior Ron Newcomb (Wheatfield, Ill./Mt. Carmel[Chicago]), senior Jake Coffman (German Valley, Ill./Forreston), and sophomore Brian Lawson (Park Forest, Ill./Rich East) slowed the offense's opening three drives. The Huskie attack produced only three points over its first three series, on a 46-yard field goal from freshman Mathew Sims (Hannibal, Mo./Hannibal).
A determined drive guided by junior quarterback Chandler Harnish (Bluffton, Ind./Norwell) and fueled with senior Ricky Crider's strong running put the Huskies in the endzone for the first time. Crider (Evansville, Ind./Reite) caught a 12-yard screen pass to finish the drive and ignite the NIU offense.
"We started out a little sluggish," junior quarterback DeMarcus Grady said. "We can't have starts like that, but we were able to pick it up and execute down the stretch."
The Huskies put touchdowns on the scoreboard in each of their next two series. The first on a two-yard bulldog run by junior Cameron Bell (Round Rock, Texas/Stony Point/Iowa State), and the second through the air as Grady (Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids) and Nate Palmer (Elkhart, Ind./Central) hooked up for a score.
"Nobody was on him, I saw him lift his hand in the air and got him the ball as quick as possible," Grady said.
Four more touchdowns would follow on the day, including one that showed the playmaking ability of Harnish. After redshirt freshman Jordan Lynch (Chicago, Ill./Mt. Carmel) had maneuvered the Huskie offense downfield to set-up a "game-winning" 32-yard field goal, Harnish came on as the holder. A mishandled snap forced Harnish to scramble and flip a pass toward the endzone. With two defenders nearby, junior tight end Jason Schepler (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore) made a touchdown catch to salvage the broken play.
The defense had its share of fortuitous bounces, as well. Junior safety Tracy Wilson (Harvey, Ill./St. Francis DeSales) intercepted a Harnish throw after the ball bounced off the hands of a tight end. The defense also fell on top of a fumble on a screen pass for back-to-back turnovers.
Kill designed the scrimmage as primarily situational. The team worked through standard two-minute drills, and was put in arrangements where it had to run the clock out, one first down at a time. The Huskies also played through three series of overtime, scoring touchdowns in each.
"We played through all kinds of situations. We did two minute drill... we did four minute offense to try and get (the defense) off the field," Kill said. "Our kids got an education of situations they are going to have to play in."
The Huskies return to the practice field Monday, August 16 for the third of four two-a-day sessions. Northern Illinois opens the 2010 campaign on Thursday, Sept. 2 with a 7 p.m. contest at Iowa State. The game will be broadcast by Fox Sports Net, and can be seen in the Chicagoland area on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
NIU opens its five-game home schedule on Saturday, Sept. 11 versus North Dakota at Huskie Stadium with kickoff set for 6 p.m.
Individual game tickets for the North Dakota game as well as home contests versus MAC foes Temple (Oct. 9), Central Michigan (Oct. 23) and Toledo (Nov. 9) are $20 each for the general public, while tickets for the Oct. 16 Homecoming game versus Buffalo are $25. Senior citizens (62 and older), youth (8th grade and under) and student guest tickets for Homecoming are $20 each and are priced at $15 each for the remaining five home contests.
Season tickets for Northern Illinois' 2010 home games are one of the region's best values at just $85 for all five games. NIU faculty and staff, Varsity Club (former letterwinners), NIU Alumni Association members and senior citizens can purchase season tickets for only $74. The three-game mini-plan allows fans to choose any three 2010 games, including Homecoming, and get the same reserved seat for all three games for just $50.
Tickets can be ordered online at www.NIUHuskies.com (click the "Tickets" link on the top of the page), on the phone at 815-752-6800 or in person at the NIU Convocation Center Ticket Office in DeKalb.