Sept. 29, 2009
Northern Illinois Football 2009
GAME 5 - Western Michigan (2-2, 1-0) at Northern Illinois (2-2, 0-0)
Oct. 3, 2009 - 2:30 pm (CDT) DeKalb, Ill. - Huskie Stadium (24,000)
TV - Comcast SportsNet Chicago/ESPN GamePlan
Radio - WSCR AM 670 (Chicago), WLBK AM 1360 (DeKalb), WTJK AM 1380 (Janesville, Wisc.)
Weekly Press Conference Quotes | Complete Release in PDF Format
2009 Record: 2-2
2009 MAC Record: 0-0
Head Coach: Jerry Kill
Alma Mater/Year: Southwestern (KS)/1983
Record at NIU/Year: 8-9/2nd
Career Record/Year: 112-66/16th
Location: DeKalb, Illinois
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
2009 Record: 2-2
MAC Record: 1-0
Head Coach: Bill Cubit
Alma Mater/Year: Delaware/1975
Record at WMU/Year: 31-22/5th
Career Record/Year: 65-40-1/10th
Location: Kalamazoo, Mich.
Colors: Brown and Gold
Stadium: Waldo Stadium
Chancellor: John M. Dunn
Athletic Director: Kathy Beauregard
Ticket Information: (269) 387-8092
WMU 2009 Schedule & Results
NIU Head Coach Jerry Kill
In his 16th season as a college head coach and his second season at Northern Illinois, Jerry Kill owns a career record of 112-66-0 for a winning percentage of .629. 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.
News and Notes
For the second straight season, Northern Illinois opens its Mid-American Conference schedule with MAC West foe Western Michigan as the Huskies play their first league game Saturday at Huskie Stadium.
Kickoff for the contest, which is WMU's second MAC game of the year,
is at 2:30 p.m.
The Time for Kill
In his second season at the helm of the NIU program, Head Coach Jerry Kill's record at Northern Illinois stands at 8-9 and includes the the Huskies' first win over a Big Ten team in 21 years. Kill led Northern Illinois to a four-game improvement and a spot in the 2008 Independence Bowl last season. 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 112-66 and a winning percentage of .629.
1,001 Here We Come
Northern Illinois played its 1,000th intercollegiate game last Saturday, becoming just the third Mid-American Conference team to hit that milestone. Miami (Ohio) is the "oldest" MAC team with 1,076 games, followed by Ohio with 1,052. After NIU, Akron will be the next league team to hit 1,000 as they have played 986 contests all-time.
Nationally, NIU became one of 70 teams to play 1,000 intercollegiate games as the Huskies, Rice and New Mexico State all reached the mark last Saturday. NIU, which played its first game in 1899, has an all-time winning percentage of .522.
While Western Michigan holds a 23-11 lead in the all-time series with Northern Illinois, since 1983, NIU has won 10 of the 19 games played.
In MAC competition (1975-85, 1997-present), WMU is 14-9 versus the Huskies. Prior to the Broncos' current three-game series winning streak, Northern Illinois won five straight contests between the schools from 2001-05. Between 1991 and 2000, Western Michigan had six consecutive series wins. Northern Illinois won just one of the first 15 games played in the series between 1950 and 1982, claiming a 20-0 win in
Down to the Wire
The last three games of the Northern Illinois-Western Michigan series have been decided by a total of just nine points, with Western Michigan winning all three contests. The Broncos won the 2006 game in Kalamazoo, 16-14, beat the Huskies, 17-13, in DeKalb in 2007 and claimed a three-point victory last year at Waldo Stadium, 29-26, in Jerry Kill's
The Last Time
Northern Illinois won the statistical battle but lost to Western Michigan, 29-26, in the second game of the year, and first MAC game, for both teams. WMU took a 14-10 halftime lead on two Tim Hiller touchdown passes, and NIU scored a third-quarter field goal to set the stage for a wild final period. Playing without quarterback Chandler Harnish, the Huskies took a 19-14 lead on a three-yard run by back-up DeMarcus Grady, then saw the Broncos score a pair of TDs to go ahead 29-19. NIU closed the gap to 29-26 with 40 seconds remaining but Western Michigan recovered Mike Salerno's onside kick attempt to seal the win. Hiller passed for 186 yards in the game, but it was the running of Brandon West which hurt the Huskies most as he gained 175 yards on 25 carries to combat NIU's 297 passing yards and 439 yards of total offense.
The Huskies lost to Idaho, 34-31, last week at Huskie Stadium to drop to 2-2 on the season. Northern Illinois was "out-executed" said head coach Jerry Kill, who watched the Vandals roll up 477 yards of total offense and convert 8-of-13 third-downs. UI's DeMaundray Woolridge gained 143 rushing yards on 19 carries as the Vandals built a 34-16 fourth-quarter lead. NIU stormed back, with linebacker Jordan Delegal setting up the Huskies' last score with a punt block. The ensuing TD made it 34-31 with 5:51 on the clock, but Northern Illinois could not get a defensive stop and Idaho ran out the clock to get the win and improve to 3-1 on the year.
Northern Illinois will play eight straight Mid-American Conference games to close out the season, the first time since 2005 that NIU has completed the non-league schedule in September. Last year, the Huskies played their non-league games on Aug. 30, Sept. 20, Oct. 4 and Nov. 25 and in 2007, the non-conference schedule was not completed until November 17.
The Huskies are 8-15 all-time in their Mid-American Conference openers, including a 4-8 mark since rejoining the league in 1997. NIU is looking to break a four-game losing streak in MAC openers, as the Huskies last started 1-0 in the league in 2004. Since then, Northern Illinois has lost at Akron (2005, in overtime), at Western Michigan (2008) and at home versus Ohio (2006) and Eastern Michigan (2007).
With a 2-2 record in its four non-conference games in 2009, Northern Illinois finished with its best record in the non-league portion of its schedule since 2006, when NIU also went 2-2. The Huskies were 1-3 in non-conference play in each of the last two seasons, and were 1-2 (with an 11-game regular season) in both 2004 and 2005.
A Winning MAC Mark
After posting a 5-3 record in Mid-American Conference play a year ago, Northern Illinois raised its record above the .500 mark - just barely - all-time in MAC play to 87-86-2. The 2009 campaign is NIU's 23rd overall in the Mid-American Conference as the Huskies spent 11 seasons in the league in its first stint (1975-86) and are 52-41 (.559) versus conference teams since rejoining the MAC in 1997.
The Welcome MAC
At home, Northern Illinois is 49-38-1 (.563) all-time in MAC games with a 28-19 mark versus its league counterparts since 1997. The Huskies won three of their four league home games in 2008 after going just 1-3 in
MAC play at home in 2007.
Home Field Advantage
In 229 games, Northern Illinois is 132-95-2 all-time at Huskie Stadium for a winning percentage of .581. NIU has won 41 of its last 54 home contests (75.9 percent), including a 4-2 mark last season and a 1-0 record so far in 2009. The Huskies are 25-10 on Brigham Field since the beginning of 2003. NIU is playing its 45th season in Huskie Stadium,
which seats 24,000, the facility opened in 1965.
Senior Sabock Back
The WMU game marks the return of former NIU assistant coach Mike Sabock to the Brigham Field sidelines in his first game as a member of the visiting team staff. Sabock spent 24 years at Northern Illinois, coaching defensive backs, outside linebackers, tight ends and defensive ends at different times during his NIU tenure, which began in 1984.
Following the retirement of former Huskie head man Joe Novak, Sabock
moved to WMU where he coaches running backs and special teams.
More "Family" Ties
There will be a Sabock on each sideline Saturday as Kevin Sabock, a redshirt freshman linebacker on the Huskie team, remained behind when his family moved to Kalamazoo. The younger Sabock injured his knee during 2008 bowl practices and has not seen action for NIU yet. Current Western Michigan Director of Marketing Elaine Russell spent several years on the Northern Illinois marketing staff before going to WMU last fall, while Bronco defensive backs coach Tim Daoust was a graduate assistant on the Huskies' staff in 2002 and 2003.
Harnish Has It
Statistically, NIU sophomore Chandler Harnish enjoyed his best performance of the season versus Idaho with a team-leading 62 rushing yards (on 13 attempts) to go with a 17-of-23, 184-yard passing day.
Harnish tied his season-high with two touchdown passes and recorded a season-long 29-yard rush. Harnish totaled 246 yards of total offense on
Harnish's performance in four games so far this season have the Bluffton, Ind. native ranked second in the conference and 38th in the country in passing efficiency with a 147.36 mark. His lone interception this season came off a tipped pass and his 65.5 completion percentage (57-of-87) is nearly 10 percent higher than last season. A year ago, Harnish was injured on the Huskies' second series and did not play the rest of the WMU game.
With newcomer Jordan Delegal's fourth-quarter punt block versus Idaho, the Huskies have totaled six blocked punts in Jerry Kill's two years at NIU. Delegal's block, which came at the Idaho 15-yard line and set up the Huskies at the Vandals' one, was Northern Illinois' first of 2009. A year ago, five different NIU players blocked punts.
NIU QB Chandler Harnish has spread the ball around with 13 different receivers catching passes so far in 2009. While no Huskie receiver has totaled 100 yards receiving yet this season, eight players, including running backs Chad Spann (5-82), Kyle Skarb (5-88) and Me'co Brown (5-53) and tight end Bryan Beckner (4-64) have at least 50 receiving
yards, while seven players have caught at least five passes.
After a career-best five catches for 53 yards versus Idaho, junior Landon Cox took over the team lead in receiving as he has 10 grabs for 93 yards. Cox also had a career-long 29-yard catch versus the Vandals, in which he dragged two defenders for an additional 15 yards. NIU coaches have named Cox the team's offensive skill player of the week three times in the Huskies' first four games, based in part on his tremendous downfield blocking.
Red Zone Rewards
Northern Illinois leads the MAC and ranks tied for 13th nationally in red zone offense with 18 scores in 19 trips inside its opponents' 20-yard line this year. The Huskies have come away with 12 touchdowns (eight rushing/four passing) and six field goals in the red zone this year. Northern Illinois also is one of just 17 FBS teams in the country to score at least 100 points so far this year.
It's All in the (Third) Downs
Through NIU's first four games, the team that has won the third down conversion stat in each contest has won the game. In its two 2009 victories, NIU made good on 5-of-11 third downs, besting Western Illinois' 5-of-13 mark, and converted eight tims in 19 tries in the win over Purdue. The Huskies held Purdue to a 5-of-14 third down mark in that contest. Northern Illinois converted just three-of-12 third downs at Wisconsin, while its Idaho conversion rate was four-of-10. In those games, the Badgers were 7-of-12 and the Vandals 8-of-13, respectively, on third downs.
Young Up Front
A young Northern Illinois team got a little bit younger during the Idaho game and that youth was most apparent on the Huskie offensive and defensive lines. When center Eddie Adamski left the game due to injury and was replaced by Scott Wedige, the offensive line consisted of senior Jason Onyebuagu and four sophomores. And with junior end Jake Coffman sidelined, the Huskies' defensive line rotation featured a pair of freshmen starters in Brian Lawson and Sean Progar, with rookies Alan Baxter and Nabal Jefferson and sophomores Adam Coleman and Ron Newcomb in back-up roles.
The Wilson Report
In his first year as a full-time starter, safety Tracy Wilson has led Northern Illinois in tackles in three of the first four games to rank as one of the Huskies' top overall defenders. Wilson leads NIU and ranks ninth in the MAC with 37 total stops, including 17 solo. Wilson turned in the first two double-digit tackle games of his career versus Wisconsin (11) and Western Illinois (10). Wilson needs only six tackles to equal his 2008 13-game total of 43 tackles.
Neither Northern Illinois nor Idaho committed a turnover last week and NIU has not lost the turnover battle in four games this year. The Huskies are tied for 18th in the country and first in the Mid-American Conference in turnover margin with a +4 mark. NIU has eight takeaways (six fumbles and two interceptions) and four giveaways (three fumbles and one INT) in 2009. The Huskies recovered three Boilermaker fumbles, including two by the punt coverage unit, while both of NIU's
interceptions came at Wisconsin.
Northern Illinois was 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. Along with Central Michigan, Western Michigan, is one of the West Division favorites. Those two teams book-end the Huskies' 2009 MAC schedule.
On Sept. 19, the Huskies broke a 19-game losing streak versus teams from the Big Ten Conference that dated back to Sept. 17, 1998 with a 28-21 upset victory over Purdue in front of 53,240 at Ross-Ade Stadium.
After falling behind 7-0 on a punt return touchdown, the Huskies controlled the game, racking up 454 yards of total offense, including 280 on the ground, while holding the ball for 41:40 to Purdue's 18:20.
NIU took a 28-7 lead late in the third quarter, then withstood a rally by the Boilermakers and, with the aid of an 11-yard pick-up run on a fake punt, ran out the clock to get the victory.
One for the Boneyard
NIU's win over Purdue qualified as a "boneyard" victory which has been commemorated on the wall in the Huskies' home locker room. Wins over Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams from BCS automatic qualifying conferences are designated as boneyard games. NIU's win over Purdue, just its second win ever over a Big Ten foe, was the first addition to the Huskie boneyard since 2003, when the Maryland, Alabama and Iowa State games made the wall.
Northern Illinois' win over Purdue was sealed by a great call by the Huskie coaches with 3:44 left in the game and NIU clinging to a 28-21 lead. The Huskies faced fourth-and-two on their own 16-yard line and lined up in punt formation. Instead of giving the Boilermakers the ball back in field position to make a game-tying drive, Nolan Owen snapped the ball to up-back Justin Anderson, who went right for 11 yards and the first down. The play energized the Huskies and demoralized Purdue, as NIU ran for two more first downs. When PU did get the ball back, they were on their own 20-yard line with only 18 seconds on the clock.
In a Rush
After rushing for 244 and 280 yards versus Western Illinois and Purdue, respectively, Northern Illinois has returned to the top of the MAC leader board in rushing offense. The Huskies currently rank 39th in the country in rushing offense with an average of 188.0 yards per game.
NIU's tailback duo of Me'co Brown and Chad Spann have combined for 529 yards, or 70 percent of the team's total.
Sophomore Me'co Brown ran for a career-high 150 yards on 26 carries versus Purdue to record his second straight and fourth career 100-yard rushing game and earn Mid-American Conference West Division Offensive Player of the Week honors. The Mississippi native gave NIU the lead with a 67-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and caught a pair of passes for 22 yards to finish with 172 all-purpose yards. His 150-yard effort was the most by a Huskie back since Justin Anderson ran for 163 versus Temple on Oct. 6, 2007.
Spann in the (End) Zone
Although Chad Spann was kept out of the end zone versus Idaho, the junior still leads the MAC and is tied for 15th in the country in scoring with seven touchdowns. Against Purdue, the Indianapolis native scored on runs of one and 11 yards while collecting a season-high 80 rushing yards. He ranks tied for sixth in the country in total touchdowns and is just one away from his team-leading 2008 season TD total.
When Jerry Kill calls his 2009 team "youngsters," the Huskie head coach is not exaggerating. Thirty-six players on this year's NIU roster are new to the team, while another 19 had never played a down for the Huskies prior to this year. Those 55 players make up half of NIU's 110-man roster. Of those 55 virtual "rookies," 21 are on the NIU depth chart, seven on offense, 12 on defense and two specialists.
Fourteen (14) players who had never seen action in a Northern Illinois game before made their debuts at Wisconsin, another eight (8) newcomers saw their first action as Huskies in the Western Illinois game and Nick Groeniger was added to the list versus Purdue. The 2009 rookies by position (* indicates started; true freshmen underlined, 2009 signees in
DL (5) - 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 (2) - Pat McAvoy, Nick Groeniger Spec. Teams (2) - Josh Wilber, Dan Edem
Starters By Class
The Huskies have started no more than six seniors in any game this year, with offensive linemen Eddie Adamski and Jason Onyebuagu, defensive end Brandon Bice and weak side linebacker Cory Hanson the only seniors who have started every game. Overall, the Huskie starting offense is dominated by sophomores, while the defense features more juniors than any other group along with freshman defensive linemen Brian Lawson and Sean Progar. The starters' by class versus Idaho:
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. After hitting a season-high three field goals versus Idaho, tying his career-high, Salerno has made seven of his nine field goal attempts this year. His Idaho makes included a season-long 50-yarder, to tie for the sixth-longest in NIU history, and he has made 13 of his last 15 field goals dating back to last year's Bowling Green game. He is averaging 66.7 yards per kickoff to lead the MAC.
Kicking it on the Charts
In less than two seasons as Northern Illinois starting kicker after transferring to NIU from Winona State, Mike Salerno is already climbing the Huskies' scoring and field goal charts. Salerno has made 25-of-33 career threes to rank tied for seventh in career field goals made and ninth in attempts. His 120 career points are seventh on the NIU kick-scoring list while his 45 PATs are 10th-most all-time,
In addition to his accuracy and kickoff prowess, Mike Salerno has become an expert "onside" kicker. Salerno has attempted five onside kicks over the last two years and Northern Illinois has recovered four of them, including in the fourth quarter of this year's Wisconsin game. The Huskies recovered back-to-back onside kicks last year versus Central Michigan.
E.A. and J.O.
The Huskie offensive line has been built around a pair of seniors in center Eddie Adamski, a member of the Rimington Award Watch List, and guard Jason Onyebuagu, who was named the NIU offensive lineman of the week following the Purdue game. Fifth-year senior Adamski ranks as NIU's most experienced player, starting all 41 of the games he has played over the last four years, while four-year man Onyebuagu has seen action in all 42 of the Huskies' games and started 29.
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 score. It was the first career MAC weekly honor for Hanson and the second for Salerno.
Huskies on TV
Northern Illinois has become the most televised team in the MAC as 55 Huskie games have been broadcast in the last five seasons, including 18 nationally. NIU was on television 11 times in 2008 and the Huskies had a school-record 13 contests aired in 2006. The school will have at least seven and 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 59-64-1 all-time on TV.
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.
Seniors Step Up
A pair of seniors made a big impact in the Purdue game as Marcus Lewis led the Huskies in receiving with four catches for 49 yards, while tight end Reed Cunningham returned to the starting line-up, scoring a touchdown on his first catch of the year. Lewis has enjoyed a resurgence this season after catching just one pass for seven yards in five games a year ago. With seven catches for 85 yards in 2009, Lewis has already established his career best single season totals. In addition, Lewis' 28-yard catch at Purdue tied his career-long grab.
Turnovers In Twos
Safety Mike Sobol forced a pair of fumbles versus Western Illinois which Northern Illinois recovered and turned into touchdowns. His first force came just one play after NIU had fumbled, while his third-quarter play 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.
After limiting Western Illinois to only seven points and 223 yards, including just 54 second-half yards, the Huskie defense was even better against Purdue, which entered the game with the nation's leading rusher in Ralph Bolden. The Boilermakers totaled just four first downs and 74 first-half yards (36 rushing and 38 passing) before finishing the game with 335.
NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish opened the Western Illinois game by hitting 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.
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).
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.
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 radio show, is a 50,000-watt station that can be heard in 38 states. In addition to producing at least three football games a year, Comcast SportsNet Chicago airs the Huskies' weekly highlight show, "Inside Huskie Sports." The network is carried throughout Illinois, as well as in parts of Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.
One of the most significant improvements for the Northern Illinois football program this offseason came 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.
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.
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.
Huskies in the Pros
Larry English, who became the highest draft choice in NIU history when he was selected the 16th pick in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers, joined 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 NFL rosters. 2008 senior receiver Matt Simon was signed to the New Orleans Saints' practice squad.
Share the Ball
Although Northern Illinois' string of nine straight seasons (1999-2007) with a 1,000-yard rusher ended 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, and his 118 rushes were eight more than Me'co Brown. As a true freshman, Brown totalled 510 yards on 110 carries. 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.
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, CBSSports.com and rivals.com. Center Eddie Adamski joined them on the rivals.com 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.
The NIU-Western Michigan game will be televised by Comcast SportsNet Chicago and will be available nationwide (except in Chicago) as part of the ESPN GamePlan package. Dave Kaplan of Comcast and WGN Radio will call the play-by-play with former college and prep coach Bob Chmiel alongside as the analyst. Jim Blaney 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 on CSN. 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 2 p.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 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 www.niuhuskies.com. 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 www.niuhuskies.com for the latest statistics, feature stories, player Q&As as well as weekly and daily updates.
Everything you need to know about all Huskie Athletics is at www.niuhuskies.com.