Northern Illinois Updated QB Situation: Junior Phil Horvath Wins Starting Job For Michigan Contest


August 22, 2005

Northern Illinois Updated QB Situation: Junior Phil Horvath Wins Starting Job For Michigan Contest

DeKALB, IL --- As far as head football coach Joe Novak is concerned, the preseason competition for the Norrthern Illinois University starting quarterback job is history.

Junior Phil Horvath (Naperville / Central) is the man. The 6-foot-3, 197-pounder will be under center when Novak’s Huskies open the 2005 season against the No. 4-ranked University of Michigan in “The Big House” on September 3.

“Phil Horvath is our starter,” Novak announced after practice Monday (August 22). “I told our quarterbacks after last Saturday’s practice. All of our quarterbacks have worked hard this summer and improved since spring ball. Phil’s overall consistency and his understanding of our offense spoke for itself.

“Right now, we’re throwing the ball, protecting, and catching as well as we have in the last two or three years. That’s not meant as a slight to anyone else. We’re still excited about the potential of our other quarterback candidates. Along the way, we hope to give our other kids some playing time.

“At this point, we have to have a starter and prepare for Michigan with that individual and that’s Phil,” Novak added. “I wish we could’ve decided the quarterback situation last spring, but I think the competition was good for everyone involved.”

Listed as the No. 1 Northern Illinois QB since the day after the 34-21 victory over Troy University last December 30 in the Silicon Valley Football Classic, Horvath maintained that spot all during the offseason. Red-shirt frosh Britt Davis (Broadview / Riverside-Brookfield) and Dan Nicholson (Chicago / Brother Rice) now share the No. 2 spot followed by soph Zach Ullrich (Winfield / Wheaton North) at No. 4.

Next on the current NIU quarterback depth chart would be true frosh walk-ons Ryan Morris (West Chicago) and Derek Watson (Mequon, WI / Homestead).

In 2004, Horvath earned his first varsity letter and fashioned a 2-1 record in three Huskie starts on a 9-3 bowl unit that shared the Mid-American Conference West Division title and finished No. 29 in both major polls. Prior to the season-opener at the University of Maryland a year ago, Horvath had never taken a Division 1-A snap.

After a foot injury (fracture) sidelined incumbent senior QB Josh Haldi in the first series against the No. 22-ranked Terrapins, Horvath completed 19-of-36 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown in relief and pulled Northern Illinois within striking distance in a 23-20 setback on the road.

Horvath led Novak’s Huskies to a pair of triumphs in the next three weeks. In his first start versus Division 1-AA powerhouse Southern Illinois University, No. 3 hit 11-of-22 aerials for 148 yards and one TD (40 yards). Seven days later, Horvath threw for a career-high 285 yards, four TDs (12, 16, 9, and 42 yards), and four interceptions on 20-of-34 passes versus Independence Bowl-bound Iowa State University in a 48-41 loss.

With Haldi still sidelined by the foot injury, Horvath came of age during the 34-17 showdown victory against Bowling Green State University on a national ESPN2 cablecast. He helped generate 483 total offense yards, completed 16-of-23 passes for 191 yards, and added 32 rushing yards on six carries in the BGSU success.

“I thought Phil established himself in the Bowling Green game,” Novak said at the time. “Horvath played a perfect game. After the Iowa State game, he went to (offensive coordinator) John Bond and said: ‘I’n not throwing any more interceptions.’ I don’t think Josh Haldi could’ve played any better (that day).”

For the season, Horvath wound up the most productive No. 2 Northern Illinois QB since Pete Genatempo (94-of-171 passes for 916 yards and five TDs in 1984) by hitting 72-of-123 aerials for 954 yards and six TD
In another announcement Monday, Novak said that Huskie practices “for the next several weeks” would be closed to the general public. Northern Illinois opens its 2005 schedule against Big Ten Conference opposition Michigan and Northwestern University (Sept. 10) before returning for its home opener versus Tennessee Tech University (Sept. 17).



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