Nov. 3, 2009
Northern Illinois Football 2009
GAME 9 -- Eastern Michigan (0-8, 0-4) at Northern Illinois (5-3, 3-1)
November 5, 2009 - 6:30 pm (CST)
DeKalb, Illinois - Huskie Stadium (24,000)
RADIO -- WSCR AM 670 (Chicago), WLBK AM 1360 (DeKalb), WTJK AM 1380 (Janesville, Wisc.); TV -- ESPNU
Complete Release in PDF Format | Weekly Press Conference Quotes
2009 Record: 5-3
2009 MAC Record: 3-1
Head Coach: Jerry Kill
Alma Mater/Year: Southwestern (KS)/1983
Record at NIU/Year: 11-10/2nd
Career Record/Year: 115-67/16th
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: 0-8
MAC Record: 0-4
Head Coach: Ron English
Alma Mater/Year: California/1990
Record at EMU/Year: 0-8/1st
Career Record/Year: 0-8/1st
Location: Ypsilanti, Mich.
Colors: Dark Green and White
Stadium: Rynearson Stadium
Surface/Capacity: Field Turf/30,200
President: Dr. Susan Martin
Athletic Director: Dr. Derrick Gragg
Ticket Information: 1-734-487-0317
EMU 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 115-67 for a winning percentage of .632. 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.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS NEWS & NOTES
In the midst of a three-game home stretch, Northern Illinois looks to win its third consecutive Mid-American Conference game and second straight MAC home game, with a Thursday night contest versus Eastern Michigan at Huskie Stadium. The game will be nationally televised by ESPNU.
The Time for Kill
Head Coach Jerry Kill has a 11-10 record at Northern Illinois in two seasons, including 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 115-67 and a winning percentage of .632.
Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan will meet for the 13th consecutive season (dating back to 1997) with NIU holding a 23-14-2 edge in the all-time series, including a 14-4-2 lead in games played as MAC opponents. The Huskies have won nine of the last 11 meetings between the teams. EMU earned seven of its 14 series wins between 1952 and 1958.
Eastern Michigan is one of the oldest and most frequent opponents on the Huskie schedule as the 2009 game is the 40th in the series. In 107 years playing football, NIU has played only four opponents (Central Michigan, Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Wheaton) more often than EMU. The series began in 1927.
A year ago in Ypsilanti, Northern Illinois defeated Eastern Michigan 37-0 thanks to a dominating performance by the Huskie defense. EMU did not advance past the Huskies' 30-yard line while holding the Eagles to
119 rushing yards on 33 carries. NIU defenders picked off a pair of passes, broke up four and totaled six tackles for loss. Offensively, Me'co Brown rushed for 111 yards on 17 carries and had one of the Huskies' four rushing scores on the day.
Northern Illinois scored 21 fourth-quarter points, beginning with a fantastic 28-yard touchdown run by Chad Spann, to earn a 17-10 come-from-behind win over Akron on Halloween at Huskie Stadium. The Huskies led 6-0 at halftime on two Mike Salerno field goals, but Akron came back to score 10 third-quarter points, including on an 80-yard halfback pass for a touchdown, and took a 10-6 lead. NIU took the lead on Spann's 28-yard run and went ahead 20-10 on its next possession with Spann scoring after a seven-play, 53-yard drive. Akron gained just
31 rushing yards and 235 yards of total offense on the day and were 0-for-10 on third down conversions.
A Winning MAC Mark
After posting a 5-3 record in Mid-American Conference play a year ago and starting 2009 with a 3-1 league record, Northern Illinois is 90-87-2 all-time in MAC play. 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 55-42 (.567) versus conference teams since rejoining the MAC in 1997.
The Welcome MAC
At home, Northern Illinois is 51-38-1 (.572) all-time in MAC games with a 30-19 (.612) mark versus its league counterparts in Huskie Stadium since 1997. The Huskies have won five of their last six league home games, including a 2-0 mark in 2009. The only loss over the last two seasons came in overtime to Central Michigan last November 12th.
Home Field Advantage
In 231 games, Northern Illinois is 134-95-2 all-time at Huskie Stadium for a winning percentage of .584. NIU is 43-17 (71.7 percent) in its last 60 home games, including a 4-2 mark last season and a 3-1 record so far in 2009. The Huskies are 27-11 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.
In Search of 500
Just weeks after playing the 1,000th intercollegiate game in school history, Northern Illinois goes after its 500th victory ever. The Huskies enter the game with an all-time record of 499-454-51 for a winning percentage of .522. NIU earned its 400th win on Nov. 11, 1989 with a 39-27 victory over Toledo. That came in the second-to-last game of a 9-2 season.
Of late, team rushing yards has been a great indicator of Northern Illinois success. In the last two seasons, when NIU rushes for over 200 yards as a team, the Huskies are 11-0. Conversely, when opponents hold Northern Illinois to less than 200 yards rushing, the Huskies are 0-10. Overall, NIU has won 12 straight games when rushing for over 200 yards.
The last time Northern Illinois hit the 200-yard mark and did not win was Sept. 29, 2007 at Central Michigan (203 yards). The last time NIU won without gaining 200 yards rushing was the week prior to that (Sept.
22, 2007) at Idaho (188 yards).
Huskies on TV
Northern Illinois has become one of the most televised teams in the MAC as 56 Huskie games have been broadcast in the last five seasons, including 18 nationally. NIU was on television 11 times in 2008. The school will have at least seven and as many as nine games broadcast in
2009 with two on the Big Ten Network, three on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, last week's ESPN Plus MAC Game of the Week and as many as three ESPNU games. NIU is 61-64-1 all-time on TV.
Joining "The Family"
The Huskies will play on an ESPN network for the first time in 2009 with this Thursday night game on ESPNU. The Huskies will make their fourth ESPNU appearance all-time and are 1-2 in those contests. NIU last played on ESPNU on Sept. 1, 2007 versus Iowa at Soldier Field. Overall, the Huskies are 15-17 when playing on an ESPN network.
The Spann Zone
Junior tailback Chad Spann scored two more rushing touchdowns versus Akron to up his season totals to 13 rushing and 14 total TDs in 2009. His scoring average of 10.50 points per game leads the Mid-American Conference and ranks tied for fifth in the country. He has six multiple touchdown games this season. Spann's 13 rushing TDs are the 10th-most scored on the ground in a single season at NIU, while his 21 career rushing scores rank ninth at NIU all-time.
Chad Spann's 28-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter changed the Huskies' fortunes versus Akron. With NIU trailing 10-6 early in the fourth quarter and facing third and one on the UA 28, the junior took the handoff and appeared to be bottled up after a modest gain, but got a block from receiver Landon Cox and sprung free. There he found an open lane and an escort to the end zone, giving the Huskies a 13-10 lead that
changed the game.
Rhymes with Ran
Chad Spann isn't just about the touchdowns in 2009. The junior tallied his second straight, and third overall, 100-yard rushing day versus Akron with 125 yards on 21 carries for an average of six yards per rush. Already enjoying a career year, the player who originally came to NIU as a walk-on now leads the Huskies in rushing with 593 yards on 109 carries (5.4 yards per rush) this season. A week earlier at Miami, Spann gained a career high 156 yards on 21 carries.
In the Club
With Spann gaining 281 yards over the last two games, he has joined teammates Justin Anderson and Me'co Brown in the Northern Illinois career 1,000-yard club. Anderson ranks 20th on the NIU career rushing chart with 1,630 yards on 361 carries. Brown passed the 1,000-yard mark earlier this season and has 1,077 yards on 225 carries in 21 career games over two seasons to rank 29th on the all-time list, with Spann just ahead of that mark with 1,083 yards on 208 totes.
Grady on the Ground
Sophomore DeMarcus Grady enjoyed a career rushing day in the Akron game as the quarterback ran for 109 yards on 20 carries to give NIU two 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time since Oct. 2, 2004, when Garrett Wolfe (110) and Adrian Davis (104) turned the trick versus Akron. The efforts of Grady (209 rushing yards in 2009), fellow QB Chandler Harnish (185 yards) and the Huskie tailbacks have returned NIU to the top of the MAC in rushing. Northern Illinois is averaging 206 yards per game on the ground, 37 yards more than the No. 2 rushing offense in the league and ranks 15th in the country.
Key to Victory
In each of Northern Illinois five victories this year, either Me'co Brown or Chad Spann has passed the 100-yard mark in rushing yards, while in the Huskies' three losses, neither has hit the century mark. Brown ran for 100 yards versus both Western Illinois and Purdue, while Spann had 100-yard games in the Western Michigan, Miami and Akron contests.
The two have combined for 1,160 yards on 224 carries with 19 rushing touchdowns on the year.
Stopping the Run
As good as the Huskies have been running the football, the Northern Illinois defense has been even better at stopping the run. NIU held Akron to just 31 rushing yards on 24 carries last week, the third time in the last four games and fourth time this season an opponent has managed less than 100 yards against the Huskies. In MAC play, Northern Illinois opponents are averaging just 62.5 yards on the ground per game and 2.3 yards per rush.
Northern Illinois produced its best performance against the rush in school history against Miami, holding the RedHawks to a school-record negative 11 yards on 27 carries. That broke the record of minus six yards earned by Temple in 2006. NIU used eight sacks, its highest single game total since a school-record 10 in 2002, to subtract 66 yards
off MU's rushing total.
In the Red
After converting on all four of its trips inside the red zone versus Akron, Northern Illinois continues to rank among the national leaders in red zone efficiency with 30 scores (on 19 touchdowns and 11 field goals) on 31 trips inside its opponents' 20-yard line. NIU is tied with Arkansas (28-of-29) with a .97 efficiency mark; the two teams trail only San Jose State's perfect (14-of-14) 1.000 mark. Northern Illinois'
touchdown percentage in the red zone is 61 percent.
The Huskies also rank second in the country in red zone defense as opponents have scored only 12 times in 19 trips inside the NIU 20 for a
.63 efficiency mark. Northern Illinois leads the MAC and ranks behind only Penn State nationally (.57) in red zone defense. Huskie opponents have scored nine touchdowns and three field goals after Akron went one-of-two inside the 20, coming away with only a field goal.
Third Down Woes
The Huskie defense posted a stat versus Akron that surprised even NIU defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who said he had never before coached a defense that held an opponent to an "oh-fer" on third down conversions. The Zips were 0-for-10 on third downs. The last time a Northern Illinois defense did not allow a third down conversion was Nov.
24, 2006, when Eastern Michigan went 0-for-9.
Bice A Force on the Force
Huskie defensive end Brandon Bice caused his fourth fumble in the last three games and now ranks tied for fifth in the country in fumbles forced. Bice's play came in the fourth quarter with the Zips at the NIU 13-yard line and driving. The senior sacked UA quarterback Patrick Nicely, who fumbled on the play, with the Huskies' Tracy Wilson making the recovery. Bice forced a pair of fumbles at Toledo, and added another last week at Miami. He also had a quarterback sack in each
Northern Illinois did not turn the ball over against Akron, marking the third time this season the Huskies have been completely turnover-free for an entire game (Idaho, Western Michigan). Huskie QBs have thrown just two interceptions this season as NIU ranks tied for third in the country in fewest interceptions thrown. Only 10 teams have lost fewer fumbles than Northern Illinois' four and the Huskies' six total turnovers is tied for the third-lowest in the country, behind only Cincinnati (4) and Oregon State (5). NIU has committed more than one turnover (2) in only one game this season, and that was the victory over Purdue.
NIU's three losses in 2009 have come by a total of 12 points, while two of the Huskies' five wins were by seven (Purdue) and five (Miami) point margins. In two seasons under Jerry Kill, Northern Illinois has been in nearly every game it has played, adding four-point wins over Miami (Ohio) and Bowling Green last season to its close wins this year.
Of the Huskies' 10 losses in the last two seasons, eight have been by eight points or less, including all three this season. The only substantial defeats Northern Illinois has suffered under Kill came versus Navy (by 16) and Ball State (by 31) last year.
On The Line
The power behind NIU's rushing offense - 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 left guard Jason Onyebuagu. Fifth-year senior Adamski ranks as NIU's most experienced player, starting all 45 of the games he has played over the last four years, while four-year man Onyebuagu has seen action in all 46 of the Huskies' games and started 33. The seniors are joined by a trio of redshirt sophomores, tackles Trevor Olson and Adam Kiel, and right guard Joe Pawlak.
Can't Get to the 'Back
While leading the way for the No. 1 rushing offense in the MAC, the Huskies' offensive line also has been effective protecting the quarterback, as Chandler Harnish and DeMarcus Grady have been sacked just nine times for minus 68 yards in eight games so far this year.
That sack total is the lowest in the MAC and can also be attributed to Northern Illinois' rushing prowess, including by its quarterbacks.
The same five players have started every game for Northern Illinois on the offensive line this season and NIU has had 12 players start every game on offense and defense overall. In addition to the offensive linemen, the Huskies have started the same linebacking crew of Cory Hanson, Pat Schiller and Alex Kube each game. NIU defensive linemen Brandon Bice and D.J. Pirkle have started every game as have cornerback Patrick George and strong safety Tracy Wilson. Five of the 12 seven-game starters (George, Kiel, Pawlak, Schiller and Wilson) are new to the starting line-up this season.
Under Jerry Kill and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, the Huskies have prided themselves on playing great team defense. Nowhere is the success of that philosophy more evident than on NIU's defensive stats page as 20 different players have recorded a tackle for loss in 2009, led by junior Jake Coffman with eight. Ten of those players have been in on a quarterback sack and 13 have broken up at least one pass. Last Saturday it was true freshmen nose guard Nabal Jefferson making his presence felt with his first career quarterback sack, as well as two
tackles for loss.
The Line's Leader
Junior Jake Coffman - at 25 years old, the oldest member of the NIU team - is showing the youngsters how it's done so far this year.
Playing both defensive end and in the last two games nose guard, the U.S. Marine Corps veteran leads Northern Illinois in tackles for loss with eight and in quarterback sacks with 5.5. His 1.14 tackles for loss per game ranks fourth in the MAC while his .79 sacks per contest are third in the league and tied for 33rd in the country. Since the beginning of October, Coffman has seven tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Huskie senior Mike Salerno was one of just 30 kickers in the country named to the Lou Groza Award Watch List during the preseason. Salerno has made 12 of his 17 field goal tries this year, including a season-high three versus Idaho and both of his tries at Miami. His Idaho makes included a season-long 50-yarder, the sixth-longest in NIU history, while two of his "misses" on the year were 53-yard efforts,
one of which hit the goalpost.
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 30-of-41 career threes to rank seventh in career field goals made and attempted.
His 147 career kicking points are sixth on the all-time list while his
57 PATs rank seventh on the NIU lists.
It's Better to Receive
NIU QBs Chandler Harnish and DeMarcus Grady have hit 13 different players with passes so far in 2009 and five wide receivers rank at the top of the charts with 10 or more catches each. The five receivers have combined for 66 catches, led by Landon Cox with 21 for 214 yards. Senior Marcus Lewis (a career best 12 catches), sophomore Willie Clark (12) and true freshmen Martel Moore (11) and Perez Ashford (10) are the other receivers atop the NIU charts.
Freshman Perez Ashford took his first career punt return back 44 yards for a touchdown versus Miami, giving Northern Illinois a 17-0 lead. His return was the first punt return score by a Huskie since October 2, 2004, when Dan Sheldon brought a punt back 73 yards for a touchdown versus Akron. Northern Illinois played 57 games between punt return
Mr. Outside, Mr. Inside?
Playing noseguard at NIU for the first time after freshman Brian Lawson suffered a hand injury, junior Jake Coffman showed he could handle life on the interior line with a career and team season-best 2.5 quarterback sacks and three tackles for loss at Miami. Coffman's plays resulted in negative 21 yards for the RedHawks and the U.S. Marine Corps veteran also totaled five tackles and broke up a pass.
Northern Illinois played its 1,000th intercollegiate game earlier this season versus Idaho to become just the third Mid-American Conference team to hit that milestone. Miami (Ohio) is the "oldest" MAC team with 1,080 games, followed by Ohio with 1,056. After NIU (1,003), Akron will be the next league team to hit 1,000 as they have played 990 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 on the same day. NIU, which played its first game in 1899, has an all-time winning percentage of .522.
Northern Illinois will play eight straight Mid-American Conference games to close out the season, the first time since 2005 that NIU has completed its non-league schedule in September. Last year, the Huskies played their non-league games on Aug. 30, Sept. 20, Oct. 4 and Nov. 25.
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.
With its win over Western Michigan, Northern Illinois started MAC play 1-0 for the first time since 2004. NIU broke a four-game losing streak in MAC openers to improve to 9-15 all-time in its Mid-American Conference lid-lifters, including a 5-8 mark since rejoining the league in 1997.
The Huskies' starting line-up in 2009 has featured a number of young players, in terms of both class and in terms of starting experience.
Only four seniors - offensive linemen Eddie Adamski and Jason Onyebuagu, defensive end Brandon Bice and weak side linebacker Cory Hanson - have started every game in 2009. Northern Illinois' offensive line-up continues to be dominated by sophomores, including on the offensive line (3), at quarterback (both Harnish and Grady) and tailback (Brown), while the defense has regularly lined up a host of juniors with the list topped by linemen D.J. Pirkle and Jake Coffman, cornerbacks Patrick George and Chris Smith and linebacker Alex Kube.
Defensive end Brandon Bice was named a semifinalist for the William V.
Campbell Trophy (formerly the Draddy Award) presented annually by the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame to the top football scholar-athlete in the nation. Bice, who carries a 3.2 GPA in biology, is one of 54 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) students on the list.
The Wilson Report
In his first year as a full-time starter, safety Tracy Wilson has led Northern Illinois in tackles in six of eight games. He leads NIU with 60 total stops, including a team-leading 26 solo. The sophomore turned in the first two double-digit tackle games of his career versus Wisconsin
(11) and Western Illinois (10). He already has surpassed his 2008 13-game total of 43 tackles.
NIU linebacker Cory Hanson must have been a receiver in a previous life, as the senior has made a habit of intercepting passes during his Huskie career. The former HS quarterback picked off his third pass of the season at Toledo, giving Northern Illinois the ball on the Toledo 11 and setting up NIU's final touchdown. Hanson has a career-best three interceptions on the year to lead NIU and is tied for second in the MAC and tied for 15th in the country in pickoffs. He now has six career interceptions with at least one in each of the last four years, the only Huskie who can make that claim.
Landon Cox leapt to the top of the Huskies' receiving list after establishing new career highs with six catches for 70 yards at Toledo.
Five of his six catches in the game went for first downs, including a 28-yard catch and run on the Huskies' final drive to set up the game-winning field goal attempt. Cox set his previous career high in the Idaho game (5-53) and has 21 catches for 214 yards on the year to establish new career highs. The junior has been lauded by Huskie coaches, who have named Cox the team's offensive skill player of the week four times, based in part on his tremendous downfield blocking in 2009.
Including 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.
Knocking 'Em Down
Northern Illinois defenders got their hands on a pair of placekicks at Miami as Chris Smith partially blocked a MU field goal attempt and D.J.
Pirkle got a big block on a PAT attempt that kept the Huskies' lead at four (20-16) late in the game. NIU last blocked a PAT versus TCU in the
2006 Poinsettia Bowl, while the Huskies' Mike Krause had a field goal
block in last year's Independence Bowl versus Louisiana Tech.
Score One for the Vet
Defensive end Jake Coffman, a veteran who walked on to the Northern Illinois team after spending several years in the Marine Corps and serving two tours in the Middle East, scored the first touchdown of 2009 for the NIU defense with a 79-yard interception return in the fourth quarter versus Western Michigan. Coffman tipped the ball, then caught it and took off for the end zone to record the sixth-longest interception return in NIU history. He was named the MAC West Defensive Player of the Week for his effort.
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.
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.
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.
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. Central Michigan and Western Michigan, were the West Division favorites entering the season. Those two teams book-end the Huskies' 2009 MAC schedule.
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 Northern Illinois before this year. Those 55 players make up half of NIU's roster.
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.
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.
Northern Illinois has introduced a total of 23 "newcomers" to college football in 2009, including six true freshmen and five junior college transfers. Of those newcomers, four have started at least one game for the Huskies. The 2009 rookies by position (* indicates started; true freshmen underlined, 2009 signees in italics):
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
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.
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).
Life Goes On
The Eastern Michigan game has been designated as the Life Goes On game as Northern Illinois announced a partnership with Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White's office last April to promote the state's organ and tissue donation effort. Fans attending the game will be able to sign up for the organ and tissue donation registry at tables set up on either side of the stadium. More information on the program is available at www.LifeGoesOn.com.
The Northern Illinois-Eastern Michigan game will be nationally televised on ESPNU, a 24-hour college sports network now available in 55 million homes nationwide. Charlie Neal will handle the play-by-play call with Jay Walker alongside as the color analyst.
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. 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.
The Eastern Michigan broadcast kicks off with the pregame show at 6 p.m.
(CST). Hall of Famer Bill Baker is in 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, WSCR and WLBK 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 this WEDNESDAY at 10 p.m. on The Score in Chicago as well as Thursday at 5:30 p.m. on WLBK.
To hear every radio broadcast and SEE live video of select NIU home 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.