Game 3: Huskies Prepare for Trip to Purdue

GO HUSKIES Mike Sobol forced two fumbles in the Western Illinois game.
Mike Sobol forced two fumbles in the Western Illinois game.

Sept. 15, 2009

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Game 3
Northern Illinois (1-1) at Purdue (1-1)
West Lafayette, Ind. - Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500)
Sept. 19, 2009 - 11 a.m. (CDT)
Big Ten Network RADIO - WSCR AM 670 (Chicago), WLBK AM 1360 (DeKalb), WTJK AM 1380 (Janesville, Wisc.)

Huskie Facts
2009 Record: 1-1
2009 MAC Record: 0-0
Head Coach: Jerry Kill
Alma Mater/Year: Southwestern (KS)/1983
Record at NIU/Year: 7-8/2nd
Career Record/Year: 111-65/16th
Location: DeKalb, Illinois
Enrollment: 24,397
Conference: Mid-American (West Division)
Colors: Cardinal and Black
Stadium: Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium
Surface/Capacity: Field Turf/24,000
President: Dr. John Peters
Associate VP/Athletic Director: Jeff Compher Ticket Information: 815-752-6800

NIU 2009 Schedule & Results

Boilermakers' Facts
2009 Record: 1-1
2009 Big Ten Record: 0-0
Head Coach: Danny Hope
Alma Mater/Year: Eastern Kentucky/1981
Record at Purdue/Year: 1-1/1st
Career Record/Year: 36-23/6th
Location: West Lafayette, Ind.
Enrollment: 40,090
Conference: Big Ten
Colors: Gold and Black
Stadium: Ross-Ade Stadium
Surface/Capacity: PAT/62,500
Chancellor: Dr. France A. Cordova
Athletic Director: Morgan J. Burke
Ticket Information: (765) 494-3194

Purdue 2009 Schedule & Results

NIU Head Coach Jerry Kill
Jerry Kill enters his 16th season as a college head coach, and his second season at Northern Illinois, with a career record of 111-65-0 for a winning percentage of .631. Prior to coming to NIU, where he led the Huskies to an Independence Bowl berth and a 6-7 record in his first season as a FBS head coach, and saw Larry English become the highest draft choice in school history, Kill spent 14 years as head coach of programs at Saginaw Valley State (Mich.), Emporia State (Kansas) and, most recently, Southern Illinois. From 2003-07, Kill led SIU to five straight appearances in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs, and overall, he compiled a mark of 55-32 in seven seasons in Carbondale. He was named the 2007 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year after leading the Salukis to a 12-2 record and the semifinals of the FCS playoffs. Kill was also honored as the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year following the 2004 season. His SIU teams won three straight Gateway (now Missouri Valley) Football Conference titles from 2004-06 and were ranked in the top 20 for 64 straight weeks beginning in 2003. At Southern Illinois, Kill coached five first-team All-Americans and four Walter Payton Award finalists; four of his former players are currently on NFL rosters, led by N.Y. Giants tailback Brandon Jacobs and Jets linebacker Bart Scott. Prior to going to SIU, Kill spent two seasons as head coach at Emporia State in his home state of Kansas. In his first collegiate head coaching job, at Saginaw Valley State from 1994-98, he won 38 games and compiled a 9-2 record in each of his last two seasons there. A native of Cheney, Kansas, Kill began his career at Pittsburg State, a powerhouse NAIA and then Division II program. He was offensive coordinator for the 1991 PSU team that won the NCAA title with a 13-1-1 record, while the 1992 Gorillas earned a runner-up finish with a 14-1 mark.

Huskie News and Notes
Non-Con Continues
Northern Illinois continues the non-conference portion of its 2009 schedule with a trip to West Lafayette, Ind. for their first-ever meeting with Purdue. The Huskies and Boilermakers, both 1-1 on the year, kick it off at 11 a.m. Saturday in front of the cameras of the Big Ten Network.

The Time for Kill
Head Coach Jerry Kill is in his second season at the helm of the NIU program after leading Northern Illinois to a four-game improvement and a spot in the 2008 Independence Bowl. Dating back to his days at Southern Illinois, a team he built into an FCS powerhouse, Kill-coached teams have made six straight postseason appearances. He was named the 2007 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year, and in his 16th season as a collegiate head coach, owns a record of 111-65 and a winning percentage of .631.

Huskies Handle Leathernecks
Northern Illinois earned its first win of 2009 last Saturday with a 41-7 defeat of Western Illinois at Huskie Stadium. Me'co Brown rushed for 117 yards on 14 carries and Chad Spann scored three touchdowns to lead the NIU offense, while the Northern Illinois defense held WIU scoreless over the final 55 minutes, forced a pair of fumbles and collected four sacks on the night.

Battling the Big Ten
NIU has played 34 games against nine different Big Ten teams over the years, including the 2009 season-opener at Wisconsin, where the Huskies fell 28-20. All-time, Northern Illinois has claimed one win and one tie versus teams in the Big Ten with a 19-17 victory over Wisconsin in 1988 and a 16-16 tie at Northwestern in 1987.

Purdue is one of two Big Ten teams that NIU has never played, while Wisconsin has been the Huskies' most frequent league opponent.

Following this game with Purdue, Northern Illinois will have played every team in the Big Ten except Michigan State.

The Purdue contest will mark the 999th intercollegiate game in Northern Illinois history as the Huskies currently own an all-time record of 495-452-51 and are in their 108th season of college football. The 1,000th game will take place at Huskie Stadium next Saturday versus Idaho. NIU, which played its first game in 1899, has an all-time winning percentage of .521.

The Staff Is Back
For the first time in 10 years, Northern Illinois has retained its entire football assistant coaching staff. The last time that NIU was able to begin a season with the same coaching staff as the previous year was in 1999, a season that saw a three-game improvement in victories.

Keeping a staff together is nothing new for Kill, who brought seven assistants, two graduate assistants and Director of Sports Performance Eric Klein to NIU from his staff at SIU.

When Jerry Kill calls his 2009 team "youngsters," the Huskie head coach is not exaggerating. Thirty-six players on this year's roster are new to the team, while another 19 entered the season having never played a down for the Huskies. Those 55 players make up half of NIU's 110-man roster. Among that group of 55 "rookies," 19 are on the NIU depth chart this week, five on offense, 12 on defense and two specialists.

Homeward Bound
Seven of the eight Indiana natives on the Northern Illinois roster have played key roles for the Huskies in 2009 with four of those in starting positions. The starting Huskie "hoosiers" are quarterback Chandler Harnish (Bluffton, Ind./Norwell HS), offensive guard Jason Onyebuagu (Indianapolis/Warren Central HS), tailback Chad Spann (Indianapolis/North Central HS) and receiver Nathan Palmer (Elkhart, Ind./Central). Defensively, linebacker Spencer Williamson (Elkhart, Ind./Central) and lineman Ron Newcomb (Wheatfield, Ind./Chicago Mt. Carmel) are contributing in reserve roles and on special teams, while Evansville running back Ricky Crider (Reitz HS) is coming back after missing most of preseason with a hamstring injury. While the Purdue roster features four players from Indianapolis, three from Evansville and one from Bluffton, only Palmer will meet a former teammate (Purdue center Jared Zwilling) across the field.

Back on BTN
The Huskies make their fourth appearance all-time, and second this season, on the Big Ten Network this week. NIU's 2008 season opener versus Minnesota was shown on the fledgling network as was the 2007 Wisconsin game and the 2009 season opener in Madison. Northern Illinois is 0-3 all-time in games shown on the Big Ten Network.

Huskie Debuts
Fourteen (14) players who had never seen action in a Northern Illinois game before made their debuts at Wisconsin, and another seven (8) newcomers saw their first action as Huskies in the Western Illinois game. The 2009 rookies and their positions (* indicates started; true freshmen underlined, 2009 signees in italics):

DL (4) - Alan Baxter, Brian Lawson*, Sean Progar, Darnell Bolding, Nabal Jefferson LB (4) - Jordan Delegal, Victor Jacques, Tyrone Clark, Devon Butler DB (4) - Chris Smith*, Tommy Davis, Rashaan Melvin, Garrett Barnas WR (3) - Perez Ashford*, Martel Moore*, Matt Ng TE (1) - Jack Marks OL (2) - Keith Otis, Logan Pegram RB (1) - Pat McAvoy Spec. Teams (2) - Josh Wilber, Dan Edem

Starters By Class
NIU started just four seniors on offense and defense in each of its first two games in offensive linemen Eddie Adamski and Jason Onyebuagu, defensive end Brandon Bice and weak side linebacker Cory Hanson. The Huskie offense is filled with sophomores, while the defense features more juniors than any other group. The offensive and defensive breakdowns by class from the Western Illinois game:


Familiar Name
Veteran Huskie fans will recognize one name on the Boilermakers' coaching staff as current Purdue linebackers' coach Mark Hagen spent the 1996 through 1999 seasons on former coach Joe Novak's NIU staff.

Hagen served as Northern Illinois' defensive tackles' coach during the time when Novak was building the Huskie program for its run of success since 2000.

Coaching Connection
Northern Illinois head coach Jerry Kill has close ties to one coach on the Purdue staff - the Purdue men's basketball coaching staff, that is. During his days as the head football coach at Southern Illinois, Kill developed a close relationship with the school's basketball coaching staff, a group with which he still maintains close contacts. Current Boilers' head coach Matt Painter was an assistant at SIU when Kill arrived at the school in 2001 and took over as the Saluki's head coach in 2003-04 before moving on to his alma mater.

Me'co on the Run
Sophomore Me'co Brown took advantage of superior play by the Huskie offensive line to record his first 100-yard rushing day of the season Saturday versus Western Illinois. Brown totalled 117 yards on just 14 carries to average 8.4 yards per rush. His day included a career-long 60-yard run, the longest rush by a Huskie since the 2006 Ball State game when Garrett Wolfe had a 75-yard run. Brown leads NIU in rushing with 181 yards on 25 carries and is averaging 7.2 yards per carry. The 100-yard games was the third of his career.

Spann in the Zone
While Me'co Brown has collected the yardage, his running mate at tailback, junior Chad Spann, has finished the job with five touchdowns - four rushing and one receiving - through the first two games. Spann, a former walk-on who led the Huskies in touchdowns a year ago with eight, is tied for second in the nation and leads the MAC in scoring with 15 points per game. The Indianapolis native scored his first career receiving touchdown versus WIU on a 20-yard reception from Chandler Harnish, and added TD runs of seven and three yards.

Scorching Start
NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish opened the Western Illinois game by hitting each of his first eight passes as he did not throw an incompletion until the Huskies' first drive of the second half.

Harnish completed all seven of his first-half throws for 98 yards and two scores while rushing for 22 yards on five carries. He finished the game a workmanlike 10-of-14 passing for 143 yards, no INTs and two TDs.

The sophomore is completing nearly 66 percent of his passes, a 10 percent increase from his final stats of a year ago.

"D" Clamps Down
The Huskie defense limited a Western Illinois offense that had put up 437 passing and 554 total yards the week before to only seven points and 223 yards. In the second half, WIU gained just 54 yards as the Huskies did not allow the Leathernecks into the end zone in the final 55 minutes of the game.

Turnovers In Twos
Safety Mike Sobol forced a pair of fumbles in the Western Illinois game which Northern Illinois recovered and turned into touchdowns. His first forced fumble came just one play after NIU had turned the ball over while his third-quarter force led to the score that put the game away.

Sobol's effort followed that of linebacker Cory Hanson, who picked off two passes in the Wisconsin game. Hanson was the first NIU player to record two INTs in a game since Dustin Utschig picked off two passes versus Toledo in 2005.

The Wilson Report
In his first year as a full-time starter, safety Tracy Wilson turned in a pair of double-digit tackle performances to lead the Huskies in stops.

The sophomore ranks tied for third in the league in tackles with 21 after compiling 10 versus Western Illinois. In just two games, Wilson is nearly halfway to his 2008 13-game total of 43 tackles.

The Center of it All
Huskie center Eddie Adamski, NIU's most experienced player with 39 starts in the Huskies' 40 games over the last four seasons, was named the team's offensive lineman of the week for his performance versus Western Illinois as he totaled four bonus blocks and graded out at 99 percent on efficiency and 96 percent on technique. Adamski was named to the 2009 preseason watch list for the Rimington Award, presented annually to the nation's best center.

Big Foot
NIU senior Mike Salerno is one of just 30 kickers in the country and two in the Mid-American Conference named to the Lou Groza Award Watch List, honoring the nation's best kicker. Already this year, Salerno has made all four of his field goal attempts to extend his string of consecutive field goals made to 10 dating back to last year's Bowling Green game. He is averaging 67.2 yards on kickoffs this season, up from his 64.5-yard average a year ago. For his career, Salerno is 22-of-28 on field goals and 39-of-39 on PATs.

Onside Expert
In addition to his accuracy and kickoff prowess, Mike Salerno has proven to be extremely adept at the onside kick during his career.

Salerno has attempted five onside kicks over the last two years and Northern Illinois has recovered four of them, including in the fourth quarter versus Wisconsin in the 2009 season opener. The Huskies recovered back-to-back onside kicks in last year's Central Michigan game as NIU came back from a 30-6 deficit late in the third quarter to force overtime.

Postseason Regulars
Over the last five years, Northern Illinois has made four postseason appearances, more than any other team in the MAC. Last year, the Huskies added to their postseason résumé with a trip to the 2008 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. where they fell to Louisiana Tech, 17-10. Dating back to 2004, NIU also has played in the Silicon Valley Classic (2004), the MAC Championship Game (2005) and the Poinsettia Bowl (2006).

Preseason Picks
Northern Illinois is picked to finish anywhere from second to fifth in the MAC West with most "experts" putting the Huskies in the third or fourth spot. In the poll of MAC coaches, the Huskies were tabbed as the West's number three team. Central Michigan and Western Michigan, who come to DeKalb Oct. 3 for the Huskies' MAC opener, are the West Division favorites with CMU the pick of the coaches. NIU closes out the 2009 regular season versus the Chippewas in Mt. Pleasant.

MAC Honors
NIU kicker Mike Salerno and linebacker Cory Hanson picked up MAC West Specialist and Defensive Player of the week honors, respectively, following the Wisconsin game. Salerno connected on field goals of 40 and 29 yards in the first half and gave Northern Illinois a chance to tie the game with a successful onside kick. Hanson picked off two passes and made three tackles at UW with his second INT setting up the Huskies' second touchdown. It was the first career MAC weekly honor for Hanson and the second for Salerno.

Dominating Defense
Northern Illinois' greatest turnaround a year ago came on defense, where the Huskies went from allowing 30.8 points per game in 2007 to giving up just 18.0 points per contest last season. The 12.8-point improvement ranked second in the nation. The Huskies finished the season ranked first in the MAC and among the national Top 20 in scoring defense, total defense and pass defense. NIU allowed opponents 298.5 yards per game in 2008, a difference of almost 136 yards from the previous season.

Excellent Exposure
Over the summer, Northern Illinois, through its new multimedia rights partner, ISP Sports, extended its agreements with WSCR AM 670 "The Score" and Comcast SportsNet Chicago, securing the Huskies' presence in the Chicago market for years to come. The Score, which will carry NIU football and men's basketball games as well as the Huskies' weekly 30-minute coaches' radio show, is a 50,000-watt station that can be heard in as many as 38 states. In addition to producing at least three football games per year, Comcast SportsNet Chicago airs the Huskies' weekly sports highlight show, "Inside Huskie Sports." The network is carried throughout Illinois, as well as in parts of Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Huskies on TV
Northern Illinois has become the most televised team in the MAC as 54 Huskie games have been broadcast in the last five seasons, including 18 nationally. NIU was on television 11 times a year ago and the Huskies had a school-record 13 contests aired in 2006. Northern Illinois will have at least seven and potentially as many as nine, games broadcast in 2009 with two on the Big Ten Network, at least three on Comcast SportsNet Chicago and as many as three ESPNU games. NIU is 58-63-1 all-time in televised games.

Good Works Nominee
Senior safety David Bryant is Northern Illinois' 2009 nominee for the Allstate/AFCA Good Works Award. A leader on the field and off who led his team to a victory in the Huskies' annual "Warrior Elite" competition, Bryant hopes to follow in the footsteps of Matt Simon, who became NIU's first Allstate/AFCA Good Works Team member a year ago.

Just 11 Division I players are named to the squad, which honors players' for community service.

Turnaround Team
In its first season under Jerry Kill, Northern Illinois made a four-game improvement overall, thanks to winning four more Mid-American Conference games than in 2007. The Huskies' four-game MAC swing ranked as the second-largest in conference improvement in the FBS last year, behind only Ole Miss, which improved its SEC record by five games.

Surprising Stats
Two Huskies made a somewhat surprising return to the stat sheet versus Wisconsin as junior tight end Bryan Beckner caught his first pass since 2007, and doubled his previous career catch total with a pair of grabs for 41 yards. His night included a career-long 27-yard catch. Also enjoying a resurgence is senior wide receiver Marcus Lewis. After catching just one pass for seven yards in five games a year ago, Lewis made two catches for 19 yards in the game.

Early Honor Roll
Several Huskies garnered preseason recognition this summer, led by kicker Mike Salerno and offensive lineman Jason Onyebuagu, who were both named first-team preseason All-MAC by Phil Steele's Magazine, and Center Eddie Adamski joined them on the team with Brandon Bice and sophomore offensive tackle Trevor Olson on that site's second team list. Steele had Adamski and Olson as second-team All-MAC, with Bice on his third team.

Huskie Book Club
In addition to practicing, working out, eating, sleeping and meeting, the Huskies found time to take on another project during preseason camp as the team read Tony Dungy's book "Uncommon" during camp. Head Coach Jerry Kill led team discussions on chapters of the book as he continues to educate his student-athletes on topics that go beyond football.

Big Improvement
One of the most significant improvements for the Northern Illinois football program this offseason came this spring with the installation of new FieldTurf at Huskie Stadium. The surface replaced the eight-year old FieldTurf which had significantly worn down with constant use. The FieldTurf replacement was completed in early June.

Huskies in the Pros
With the NFL's opening day approaching, 2008 senior Larry English, who became the highest draft choice in NIU history when he was selected with the 16th pick in the first round by the San Diego Chargers, joins Dallas Cowboys Sam Hurd and Doug Free, running backs Garrett Wolfe of the Chicago Bears and Michael Turner of the Falcons, Colts' lineman Ryan Diem and Hollis Thomas (Rams) on opening day rosters NFL camps this summer. 2008 senior receiver Matt Simon was signed to the New Orleans Saints' practice squad.

Leading the Way
Quarterback Chandler Harnish is back under center for the Huskies in 2009 after leading NIU in passing, rushing and total offense as a redshirt freshman in 2008. His 2,067 yards of total offense established a new freshman school record and he accounted for 12 touchdowns, eight passing. With 539 yards on 118 carries, Harnish became the first quarterback to lead Northern Illinois in rushing since Stacey Robinson in 1990. His 1,528 passing yards rank as the eighth-most ever for a MAC freshman.

Share the Ball
Although Northern Illinois' string of nine straight seasons (1999-2007) with a 1,000-yard rusher was snapped last year, the Huskies relied on seven different backs to total over 2,000 rushing yards.

Harnish was one of five Huskies to gain at least 200 yards rushing in 2008, while his 118 rushes were eight more than Me'co Brown. As a true freshman, Brown totalled 510 yards on 110 carries. His counterpart at tailback, Chad Spann, led the team in yards per carry with 4.9 and in rushing touchdowns with eight. He netted 429 yards on 88 totes.

Been There, Done That
While the Huskies are a young team overall, NIU has a number of players on its 2009 depth chart who have started games during their careers. On offense, the list includes 18 players who have started at least one game for Northern Illinois, including three quarterbacks, three tailbacks, four receivers and three tight ends. On defense, the Huskies feature 12 current or former starters.

Not Forgotten
After completing a stellar career at Northern Illinois as the Huskies' record-holder in career, single season and single game quarterback sacks and tackles for loss, Larry English went on to become.

English left an indelible mark on the 2009 team with his practice habits, leadership skills and toughness serving as a daily example to the Huskies' young players.

New Starters
Although the Huskies rotate players freely at a multitude of positions making "who starts" a footnote rather than a headline, eight players did crack the starting line-up for the first time on Saturday. The eight first-timers included freshmen receivers Perez Ashford and Martel Moore, sophomore offensive linemen Adam Kiel and Joe Pawlak, and tight end Jason Schepler on offense, along with nose guard Brian Lawson, cornerback Kiaree Daniels and middle linebacker Pat Schiller on defense.

While Schiller, Schepler and Daniels all saw playing time last season, the others received either their first, or their most extensive, exposure to college football.

Huskie Multimedia
The NIU-Purdue game will be televised by the Big Ten Network. Craig Coshun will call the play-by-play with NFL All-Pro defensive back Rod Woodson, a Purdue graduate, alongside as the analyst. Larra Overton handles sideline duties.

For complete game highlights as well as commentary from Head Coach Jerry Kill, watch "Inside Huskie Sports" weekly on Comcast SportsNet Chicago and on my Network TV in Rockford. Beginning this week, the 30-minute highlight show will air each Thursday at 4 p.m. In Rockford, catch IHS at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays on myNetworkTV. Fans are also invited to the live taping of the show Mondays at 5:30 p.m. at Fatty's Pub and Grille, 1312 West Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.

The Northern Illinois ISP Sports Network consists of three stations for 2009: WSCR "The Score" AM 670 (Chicago), WTJK-AM ESPN 1380 (Janesville, Wisc.) and the flagship station, WLBK-AM (1360) in DeKalb.

This week, the broadcast kicks off with the pregame show at 10:30 a.m.

Hall of Famer Bill Baker enters his 30th year as the play-by-play voice of the Huskies and is joined in the booth by 25-year veteran Mark Lindo and fourth-year sideline reporter Casey Kahler. In 2009, all three NIU ISP Sports Network stations also will carry "NIU Live," the weekly 30-minute radio show that is all about Huskie Sports. Director of Athletics Jeff Compher joins host Andy Garcia and Huskie coaches for the show, which airs Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. on WLBK and most Thursday nights at 10 p.m. on The Score.

To hear every Huskie Radio Network broadcast and SEE live video of select NIU games, sign up for the Huskie All Access package at Purchase the monthly package for $6.95 or a year-long pass for $49.95. Fans can also enjoy more free content than ever before. Also go to for the latest statistics, feature stories, player Q&As as well as weekly and daily updates.

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