Nov. 4, 2011
2011 NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES FOOTBALL
Northern Illinois (6-3, 4-1) at Bowling Green (4-5, 2-3)
Nov. 8, 2011 | 7 p.m. (CT) | ESPN2
Bowling Green, Ohio | Doyt L. Perry Stadium | 24,000
HUSKIE FOOTBALL FACTS
2011 Record/MAC Record: 6-3/4-1
2010 Record: 11-3
MAC (Regular Season) Record/Finish: 8-0/1st, West Division
Head Coach: Dave Doeren
Record at NIU & Career Record: 6-3/First Year
Alma Mater/Year: Drake/1994
Basic Offense/Defense: Multiple/4-3
First Year of Football: 1899
All-Time Record: 518-463-51
Last Bowl Game: NIU 40, Fresno State 17
2010 uDrove Humanitarian Bowl; Boise, Idaho
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 47/25
Starters Returning: 11 (8 offense, 3 defense, 0 specialists)
Starters Lost: 13 (4 offense, 9 defense, 3 specialists)
NORTHERN ILLINOIS FACTS
Location: DeKalb, Illinois
Affiliation: NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision
Conference: Mid-American (West Division)
Colors: Cardinal and Black
Stadium: Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium
Surface/Capacity: FieldTurf /24,000
President (Alma Mater, Year): Dr. John Peters (John Carroll 67)
Assoc. VP/Athletic Director: Jeff Compher
Alma Mater, Year: James Madison '80
Ticket Information: 815-752-6800
2011 NIU SCHEDULE
2011 Record/MAC Record: 4-5/2-3
2010 Record/MAC Record/Finish: 2-10/1-7/T5th East
Head Coach: Dave Clawson
Alma Mater/Year: Williams (Mass.) College '89
Record at BG/Year: 71-70/12th
Career Record/Year: 18-15/3rd
Location: Bowling Green, Ohio
Colors: Orange & Brown
Stadium: Doyt L. Perry
President: Dr. Mary Ellen Mazey
Athletic Director: Greg Christopher
Ticket Information: 419-372-0000; 877-247-8842
Athletics Website: www.bgsufalcons.com
FB Media Relations Contact: Dave Meyer
Phone: 419-372-7077 (O); 419-265-0284 (C)
E-Mail Address: email@example.com
2011 BGSU SCHEDULE
Overall: Bowling Green leads 10-6
In Bowling Green: Bowling Green leads 7-1
In MAC Games: Bowling Green leads 7-4
Streak: NIU, 2
Last Meeting: NIU 16, BGSU 13 (10-25-08)
First Meeting: BGSU 17, NIU 7 (11-18-67)
NIU HEAD COACH Dave Doeren
Dave Doeren, a 16-year collegiate coaching veteran who has helped take teams to eight bowl games and two national championship contests, was named the 21st head football coach in NIU history on Dec. 13, 2010.
In his first season at the helm of the program, Doeren has led Northern Illinois to six wins, making NIU bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season. Doeren came to NIU after five seasons at Wisconsin. After spending two seasons as the Badgers' co-defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator, he added defensive coordinator duties in 2008. During Doeren's time at Wisconsin, the Badgers posted a 49-16 overall record and played in the Champs Sports Bowl (twice), Outback Bowl and Capital One Bowl. In 2010, UW posted an 11-2 record, won a share of the Big Ten title and played TCU in the 2011 Rose Bowl. Doeren's UW defenses were consistently ranked in the top 25 in the nation and while there he coached players like current National Football League linebackers Jonathan Casillas of the New Orleans Saints and DeAndre Levy of the Detroit Lions. Most recently, defensive end J.J. Watt was selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. Doeren arrived at UW after four seasons (2002-05) at the University of Kansas. He was the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator for his first three seasons before being promoted to co-defensive coordinator in 2005. Prior to his time at Kansas, Doeren coached the secondary at NCAA FCS power Montana for two seasons. Montana won the I-AA national championship in 2001 and went 28-3 with two conference titles in his time there. He started his college coaching career as an assistant at Drake from 1995-97 where he coached linebackers, before becoming defensive coordinator in 1997. A four-year letterwinner at Drake (1990-93), Doeren earned Academic All-America honors as a senior and graduated with a bachelor's degree in pre-medical biology and a master's in educational leadership. He and his wife, Sara, have three sons - Jacob, Luke and Connor.
WATCH NIU-BG ON ESPN2 and espn3
The Northern Illinois-Bowling Green game will air on ESPN2 as NIU will be featured on the network for the second consecutive Tuesday. The game will also be available on ESPN3 through the WatchESPN.com website. Mark Neely will handle play-by-play duties with former Central Michigan star Ray Bentley alongside as color analyst.
LISTEN ON THE NIU RADIO NETWORK
The Northern Illinois Radio Network, presented by IMG College, will bring Huskie fans live game action on these stations in 2011:
WLBK AM 1360 (DeKalb) - FLAGSHIP
WTJK ESPN 1380 AM (Janesville, WI-Rockford)
WJOL 1340 AM (Joliet)
WSCR670 AM The Score (Chicago)
Each week, the broadcast kicks off with the pregame show 30 minutes prior to kick off. Hall of Fame broadcaster Bill Baker is in his 32nd season as the play-by-play voice of the Huskies and is joined by Mark Lindo, in his 27th year as NIU's color analyst, and sixth-year sideline reporter Casey Kahler.
"Inside Huskie Football" Radio Show
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren joins host Bill Baker and other special guests on the "Inside Huskie Football" radio show each Thursday from 7-8 p.m. during the 2011 season. The show takes place live at Cabana Charley's in Sycamore and fans are invited to attend. Hear the show live on WLBK 1360 AM DeKalb and on NIU Radio Network affiliate ESPN1380AM in Janesville, Wis. The 2011 dates for the show are Sept. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; Oct. 6, 13, 20, 27; and Nov. 3, 10 and Nov. 22 (Tuesday).
"NIU Weekly" Radio Show
Each week, join NIU Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher, host Andy Garcia and Northern Illinois coaches for "NIU Weekly" on WSCR 670 AM The Score in Chicago. The 30-minute show features a weekly interview with head football coach Dave Doeren as well as interviews with other Huskie coaches and all the latest NIU Athletics news. The show will air every Saturday morning from 7:30-8 a.m.
Fans across the country can hear all NIU live radio broadcasts, including football games and "Inside Huskie Football," live on Huskies All-Access at www.NIUHuskies.com. All-Access subscribers pay just $6.95/month or $49.95/year to receive all NIU radio game and show broadcasts, as well as select football and all home basketball, volleyball and men's and women's soccer games as well as home gymnastics and wrestling meets. Subscribers also have access to Coach Doeren's weekly press conferences and special video features.
The best source for all of the latest NIU Athletics news and information, statistics, press releases and more is NIUHuskies.com. The Huskies' official athletics website includes video, links to live stats coverage, complete bios on Huskie players and coaches and archives.
NIU'S HARNISH HONORED AS NFF SCHOLAR-ATHLETE
On Oct. 25, NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish was named a recipient of one of 16 National Scholar-Athlete Awards from the National Football Foundation and is also a finalist for the 2011 William V. Campbell Trophy. Harnish, who earned his undergraduate degree in business management from the NIU College of Business last spring with a 3.65 grade point average, is currently pursuing his M.B.A. He will receive an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship and be honored, along with the other 15 NFF Scholar-Athletes, at the 54th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 6, 2011 at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York. The NFF Scholar-Athletes were selected from a pool of 127 nominees in all classifications of college football for their combined athletic, academic and leadership skills. Harnish, who already owns seven Northern Illinois career records, including many that stood for nearly 50 years, is the third student-athlete from Northern Illinois to be named an NFF Scholar-Athlete, joining Patrick Stephen (1998) and Josh Haldi (2004).
NORTHERN ILLINOIS NEWS & NOTES
Road Swing Concludes
Northern Illinois concludes a three-game Mid-American Conference road swing with its first visit to Bowling Green in eight seasons for a Tuesday night ESPN2 match-up. NIU is also playing the second of its three November Tuesday night ESPN network television games.
Huskies and Falcons
Bowling Green holds a 10-6 lead in the all-time series between the teams and has won seven of eight games played at Doyt Perry Stadium. NIU's only victory in Bowling Green occurred in 1986 when the Huskies claimed a 16-8 win. Northern Illinois has won three of the last four games between the teams, including each of the last two. BG's last victory was Oct. 25, 2003 in Bowling Green (see note below) by a 34-18 score.
Doeren's Debut Season
Northern Illinois Head Coach Dave Doeren has led NIU to a 6-3 record and bowl eligibility in his first season as the Huskies' head man, and in his first season as a head coach after 16 seasons as a collegiate assistant. The 21st head football coach in NIU history, and the 10th since Northern Illinois joined the major college ranks in 1969, Doeren came to NIU after five seasons at Wisconsin (2006-10), where he was linebackers coach and defensive coordinator (see bio next page).
Low Scoring Game
The last time Northern Illinois and Bowling Green played, kicker Mike Salerno hit a 30-yard field goal with 12 seconds left to give the homestanding Huskies a 16-13 win on Oct. 25, 2008. NIU trailed 13-10 entering the fourth quarter, but used its rushing prowess to put together a pair of field goal scoring drives and claim the hard-fought win. Chandler Harnish notched his first 100-yard rushing game with 113 yards on 19 carries and the Huskies gained 233 rushing yards while holding BG to just 168 yards of total offense.
Northern Illinois is in its 26th season as a member of the Mid-American Conference in 2011. In MAC games, Northern Illinois is 104-90-2 all-time and the Huskies are 69-45 (.605) in conference games since rejoining the MAC in 1997. The Huskies have won 12 of their last 13 and 17 of their last 21 MAC regular season contests. NIU is playing its 15th consecutive campaign as a member of the MAC and also competed as a league member from 1975-85.
The MAC Road
Northern Illinois has posted a 25-13 (.658) record versus Mid-American Conference foes on the road since 2002, and is 2-1 on the road in league games so far this year. NIU is playing its 100th MAC road game ever at Bowling Green this week. The Huskies are 46-52-1 (.470) in road league games all-time; since rejoining the MAC in 1997, Northern Illinois is 32-26 (.552) on the road versus MAC teams.
Northern Illinois continues its "ESPNovember" with its second consecutive Tuesday night ESPN2 game. Since 2005, Northern Illinois has played 11 November games in front of the ESPN cameras with seven games on ESPN2, one on ESPN Classic and three on ESPNU. Including last week's game at Toledo, NIU is 4-3 on ESPN2 in those November games, 3-0 on ESPNU and 0-1 on Classic. Next week, NIU will make its third straight Tuesday night ESPN network appearance when the Huskies play host to Ball State on ESPNU.
If You're Counting
The Bowling Green game will be the 1,033rd game in Northern Illinois history and the Huskies will be looking for their 519th victory. NIU has a 518-463-51 all-time record for a winning percentage of .527. Over the past 11 seasons (since 2000), Northern Illinois is 85-59 (.590) with nine winning campaigns to record the best mark of any of the three Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the state of Illinois.
The last time Northern Illinois played at Bowling Green was a historic day for the Mid-American Conference, although in the end a less memorable day for the Huskies. The game matched the 12th-ranked Huskies and the Falcons, who came into the contest ranked 23rd in the nation, and was nationally televised on ESPN2. The morning of the game, ESPN's iconic college football pregame show - "ESPN College GameDay" - aired live from Bowling Green to preview one of the highest-profile MAC match-ups ever. Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and crew broadcast live from a MAC venue for the first - and to date only - time in the history of the show. NIU lost the game, 34-18, and fell to No. 22 in the rankings.
Chandler Harnish completed his sixth touchdown pass of the night on a four-yard toss to Perez Ashford with 19 seconds on the clock, to lift NIU to a wild 63-60 win over Toledo in the Glass Bowl on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Harnish ran for 133 yards and passed for 265 to lead the nearly unstoppable Huskie offense. After taking a 49-41 lead early in the fourth quarter, NIU gave up back-to-back touchdowns to the Rockets and fell behind 53-49 before coming back twice in the final eight minutes to claim the Huskies' third win all-time at the Glass Bowl. NIU struck quickly early as freshman Tommylee Lewis brought the opening kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown and scored on a 95-yard return after Toledo answered with a score.
Northern Illinois and Toledo combined to score 123 points to set a Mid-American Conference record for most points scored in a MAC non-overtime game. The 17 touchdowns scored by the teams also established a new league mark while the 1,121 combined total yards is ninth most in MAC history.
Lightning Strikes - Twice
NIU freshman Tommylee Lewis brought the game's opening kickoff back 100 yards for his first career return touchdown, tying the school record for longest scoring play (Dave Petway, 100-yard INT return vs. Southern Illinois, 10-22-77) and setting the mark for longest kickoff return TD (previous record, 98 yards by Byron Florence vs. Western Michigan, Sept. 23, 1972). Four minutes and 30 seconds later, Lewis went 95 yards - untouched - to the end zone for his second KOR score of the game. That return is tied for the ninth-longest scoring play, and fifth longest kickoff return, in NIU history.
Lewis joins a group of 13 individuals in Football Bowl Subdivision (NCAA Division I-A) history who have returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game. The list includes Toledo return man Eric Page, who added his name to the list last year, along with players like Raghib Ismail (Notre Dame), the only person to score twice on kickoff returns in two games. With his two kickoff return scores versus Toledo, Lewis became the first player in Northern Illinois history to return two kickoff returns for scores in the same game and he tied the NIU records for most kickoff return scores in a season and in a career.
Adding to Lewis' Lore
In addition to the single game, single season and career marks for kickoff return touchdowns, Lewis broke the record for most kickoff return yards in a game with 223 on four returns for an average of 55.7 yards per return. He broke the previous record of 185 kickoff return yards set by John Spilis vs. North Dakota State on Sept. 28, 1968 and tied by A.J. Harris vs. Akron (9-24-05). His average per return broke the record of 42.3 compiled by Tommy Davis versus Eastern Michigan in 2009. The Huskies also set team marks for most kickoff return yards and most TDs.
Back to Ohio
There are three Ohio natives on the Huskie roster, most notably junior receiver Perez Ashford, a product of Shaker Heights who caught the game-winning touchdown pass with 19 seconds to play at Toledo. Ashford, a junior, has 59 career catches for 656 yards, with 30 grabs for 367 yards in 2011. Running back James Spencer and defensive back Tre' Moore are the other Ohioans on the NIU roster. Moore is a true freshman from Dayton who is redshirting the 2011 campaign, while Fremont product Spencer has earned kudos for his performance on the Huskies' work team.
Huskie senior offensive tackle Trevor Olson reaches a notable number Tuesday night when he is expected to start his 50th career game. Olson will become just the second player in NIU history to start 50 games, as former center Eddie Adamski started all 50 of the games he played from 2006-2009 to set the school record for most starts. Olson can break that record if he takes the field with the Huskie offense versus Ball State. To date. Olson's career has taken a similar path to that of one of his predecessors at left tackle, current Dallas Cowboy offensive lineman Doug Free, who started 48 games - every game of his NIU career - from 2003-06.
NIU features one of the top offensive lines in the country with redshirt seniors Trevor Olson (LT), Scott Wedige (C), Joe Pawlak (RG) and Keith Otis (RT) and redshirt junior Logan Pegram (LG) powering the Huskies' offensive machine in 2011. Behind that line, NIU ranks in the Top 20 nationally in scoring offense (16), total offense (20) and rushing offense (11), and the Huskies rank sixth in the country in fewest sacks allowed. Northern Illinois has given up one sack or less in eight of the team's nine games this year and has not allowed a sack in its last four games. The five veterans up front have made 150 combined starts, led by Olson's 49 (every game of his NIU career) and Pawlak's 36. Otis and Wedige have 23 starts each; Pegram has started 19 contests.
Forty is the New 30
With a season-best 63-point outburst at Toledo, Northern Illinois broke its school record for most 40-point games in a season with seven. The Huskies have scored 40 or more points in seven of their nine games this year, including in two of NIU's three losses. The 2011 Huskies broke the mark they shared with the 2010 and 2000 NIU teams. Northern Illinois is now averaging 41.2 points per game, above last year's average of 38.0 points per game, which stands as the school record.
Entering this weekend's action, Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish has quietly made a name for himself as one of the top dual threat signal callers in the nation. Including Tuesday night's totals of 133 rushing and 265 passing yards, Harnish has more rushing yards this season than any other FBS quarterback with 871, while his 152.78 passing efficiency rating (152-of-241 with 18 touchdowns, 4 interceptions for 1,962 yards) puts him in the Top 20 nationally. Harnish notched the eighth 100-yard rushing day of his career at Toledo (tied for 10th at NIU); in seven games, he has passed and rushed for more than 100 yards and once (see below) he went over the 200-yard mark in both categories. On the season, Harnish is within reach of both 1,000 yards rushing (129 yards away) and 2,000 yards passing (38); for his career, he has surpassed the 10,000-yard threshold in total offense with 7,690 passing and 2,475 rushing yards.
He's Got Legs
Chandler Harnish is only the second Huskie quarterback all-time to surpass the 2,000-yard mark in career rushing yards as he now ranks 10th on NIU's all-time rushing list with 2,475 yards on 454 carries. Harnish joined Stacey Robinson (2,727 yards on 428 carries from 1988-90) in NIU's 2,000-yard club and now needs 253 yards to surpass Robinson and move into ninth place on the Huskies' career chart. Harnish also has 21 career rushing scores, with a career-high eight in 2011, to rank 10th all-time in that category. He has led NIU in rushing in five games this season, including each of the last four, and currently ranks fifth in the MAC, and 31st in the country, in rushing yards per game.
Quarterback Chandler Harnish currently owns seven Huskie career passing and total offense records and is taking aim at the NIU career mark for touchdown passes. After throwing a career-best SIX touchdown passes at Toledo (tied for the second-highest single game in school history and in MAC history), Harnish has 58 TD passes all-time and trails NIU record-holder and College Football Hall of Famer George Bork (1960-63) by just two. In 42 career games, Harnish has completed 602-of-967 passes for 7,690 yards (all records) with five 300-yard passing games, including two this season. He has accounted for 10,165 yards of total offense and 79 touchdowns (rushing and passing) in 1,421 plays - also all school records.
The 200-200 Club
Chandler Harnish put himself in the NCAA record books with a rare 200-200 performance versus Western Michigan. Harnish became only the 10th player in NCAA FBS history to have 200 passing AND 200 rushing yards in the same game as he completed 14-of-27 passes for 203 yards and ran for 229 yards on 14 carries to power the Huskie offense. Harnish joined an elite list of players that includes Texas' Vince Young (2005), Patrick White of West Virginia (2006), Brad Smith of Missouri (2005), Indiana's Antwaan Randle El (2000) and Michigan's Denard Robinson (2010). To date, Robinson is the only player to have two 200-200 games. Harnish's 432-yard total offense day earned Mid-American Conference West Division Offensive Player of the Week honors for the second time this season.
Huskie quarterback Chandler Harnish remains the lone MAC player to rush for 200 or more yards in a game this season with his 229-yard effort versus Western Michigan; the performance ranks 10th among all players and is the top rushing total by any FBS quarterback in 2011. He gained 163 yards in the third quarter, the second-highest single quarter total ever at NIU, behind only a 173-yard second quarter by Stacey Robinson versus Fresno State on Oct. 6, 1990. It was the third-best rushing game by an NIU quarterback in school history and the best in 21 years, since Robinson's 306-yard total in that October win over Fresno State.
Best Passing Day
As a redshirt freshman starting his first career game at Minnesota in 2008, Chandler Harnish threw for 326 yards on 17-of-29 completions to record the best passing yardage day of his NIU career. That total held for 37 games, until Oct. 1, 2011 when Harnish threw for 370 yards on 27-of-50 passing at Central Michigan. The 370 yards rank sixth all-time at NIU, while 27 completions tied Harnish's career-best and are fifth on the single-game list as are the 50 pass attempts. Harnish's 462 yards of total offense (370 pass, 92 rush) versus CMU are the second-most by an NIU player ever, topped only by Phil Horvath's 477-yard game versus Akron on Sept. 24, 2005.
Hoosier State Hook-Up
Senior Nathan Palmer (Elkhart, Ind.) was on the receiving end of three Chandler Harnish (Bluffton, Ind.) touchdown throws at Toledo Tuesday night, to tie for third place on the NIU single game list for TD receptions in a game. Palmer became the first Huskie player to catch three touchdown passes in a game since current Chicago Bear Sam Hurd versus Central Michigan on Nov. 5, 2005. His 120 receiving yards were the most for the Indiana native since the first game of his freshman season, when he and Harnish combined for 170 yards on three catches at Minnesota, including a career-best 91 yard score. Palmer, who now leads the team in receiving with a career-best 31 catches for 449 yards, recorded just the second 100-yard day by an NIU receiver this season. His touchdowns came on plays of six, 71 and 19 yards with the 71-yard the longest pass play for NIU since 2008.
Through nine games, Northern Illinois opponents have ZERO punt return yards. Opponents have returned only four of Ryan Neir's 32 punts and those returns have not resulted in any positive yardage. Twenty of Neir's 32 punts have been fair caught and eight have resulted in the opponent starting inside the 20-yard line. Neir has not had a kick go into the end zone. NIU ranks 59th in the country in net punting.
In the Zone
NIU is ranked third in the MAC in red zone offense with 46 scores in 50 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line, including a 10-for-10 showing in its last two games (at Buffalo, at Toledo). The Huskies have scored 35 touchdowns and 11 field goals from inside the 20 for a 92 percent rate. Northern Illinois has been in the red zone 10 more times than any other school in the league and have at least nine scores more than any other school. NIU's 35 TDs is five more than the No. 2 team. The Huskies 92 percent conversion percentage ranks tied for ninth in the country.
Senior tailback Jasmin Hopkins has scored seven rushing touchdowns in the Huskies' last three games and reached the end zone a season-best three times versus both Western Michigan and Buffalo. Hopkins, who ranks second on the team in rushing behind Chandler Harnish, now has 13 touchdowns, 12 rushing and one receiving. He has scored at least one touchdown in seven games and has four multiple touchdown games. With 13 TDs in 131 touches, Hopkins scores approximately once every 10 times he touches the ball.
While 10 different Huskies have caught touchdown passes in 2011, and Chandler Harnish spread the ball around to nine different receivers last week versus Toledo, three veterans have separated themselves at the top of the NIU receiving charts. Perez Ashford, Nathan Palmer and Martel Moore have combined to catch 87 of Northern Illinois' 161 completions for 1,136 yards and 10 touchdowns. Palmer, who has caught at least one pass in every game this season, has 31 catches for 449 yards and four scores with Ashford close behind with 30 grabs for 367 yards and two TDs, including the game-winner at Toledo. Moore has made 26 catches for 320 yards and four touchdowns. Ashford has at least one catch in eight straight games, while both Moore (130 yards at CMU) and Palmer (120 at Toledo) have a 100-yard game.
Back in his middle linebacker position for the first time since 2009, senior Pat Schiller leads the Huskie defense and ranks tied for third in the MAC in tackles. Schiller has 80 tackles on the year, his second best single season total, with 33 solo stops and 47 assists. He has recorded a career-high eight tackles for loss and has 204 career tackles. Schiller has 10 or more tackles in four games this season, including each of the Huskies' last three games.
After making a name for himself as a true freshman as a special teams star with three blocked punts, defensive back Jimmie Ward has become an every down player in the Huskies' defensive backfield in 2011. Ward ranks second on the team in tackles with 72 and his 34 solo stops are second on the squad. He led NIU in tackles at Toledo with a career-best 13 stops, and led Northern Illinois versus Wisconsin with 11 stops after registering 10 tackles at Kansas. The Alabama native also has a quarterback sack, two tackles for loss, a blocked punt and two pass break ups on the season.
Along the Line
While the Huskies' defensive line rotation features as many as 10 players, three have set themselves apart with their play so far this season. Defensive end Sean Progar, a first team All-MAC defensive end a year ago, has continued his excellent play as a junior as he leads NIU and is ranked tied for fourth in the league with 4.5 quarterback sacks. Progar made his 100th career tackle at Buffalo and has 26.5 career tackles for loss. His 14.5 sacks already rank eighth on the NIU career list. Meanwhile, defensive end Alan Baxter and defensive tackle Ron Newcomb are each enjoying career years. Newcomb, a career reserve, had never made more than 13 tackles in a season entering 2011. He has 37 stops this year, with eight tackles for loss. Versus Kent State, Newcomb totaled 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss, made a career high nine tackles, forced a fumble and blocked a field goal to earn MAC West Defensive Player of the Week honors. Baxter leads all NIU players with nine tackles for loss and is second on the squad with three sacks. His previous season bests were 4.5 and 0.5, respectively.
Good Day for the Defense
Northern Illinois held Kent State to 64 total yards on 62 offensive plays, the lowest total by an NIU opponent since the Huskies joined the Major College (Division I FBS) ranks in 1969. The Flashes' one rushing yard on 38 carries was the lowest total since Miami (Ohio) had minus 11 rushing yards on Oct. 24, 2009. The 63 passing yards are the fewest since Eastern Michigan tallied just 11 yards through the air last year (11-26-10). In addition, Northern Illinois' 15 tackles for loss were the most since NIU had a school-record 16 versus Eastern Michigan in 2002 (11-16), while the 84 yards lost were the most ever by an NIU defense, breaking the old record of minus 80 yards versus Wisconsin (9-14-02). The Huskies' eight sacks were their most since Oct. 24, 2009 versus Miami.
Defensive Lineman's Dream
Nabal Jefferson fulfilled a defensive lineman's dream versus Kent State when he picked off an attempted screen pass and returned it 25 yards to record the first score of 2011 for the Huskie defense. Northern Illinois picked off a season-best two passes versus both WMU and Buffalo with safeties Demetrius Stone (WMU) and Dechane Durante (UB) and linebacker Michael Santacaterina (WMU) recording their first career INTs. NIU's interceptions have been by a linebacker (1), defensive linemen (2), defensive backs (4).
With the Huskie offense scoring at a record rate, it's no surprise that sophomore kicker Mathew Sims is posting some noticeable numbers as well. Sims leads the MAC in kick scoring with 9.7 points per game with his 87 points (45 PATs and 14 FGs) in NIU's nine games. Sims ranks 16th nationally in overall scoring and is tied for 17th in field goals. His 45 PATs made already rank fourth on the NIU single season chart. After making 12 field goals in NIU's four October games, Sims did not attempt a three-pointer at Toledo. He made four-of-six field goals at Central Michigan, and hit all four of his three pointers versus Kent State (from 31, 32, 44 and 34 yards) when he was named one of the Lou Groza Award "Stars of the Week." His perfect day tied for the top percentage day in school history and was the first time since 2000 that an NIU kicker went four-for-four or better on threes.
Northern Illinois has 36 Chicagoland natives on its 110-man roster in 2011. NIU's Chicago contingent includes starters Da'Ron Brown, Jack Marks, Joe Pawlak, Keith Otis and Willie Clark on offense, along with Alan Baxter, Ron Newcomb, Nabal Jefferson, Sean Progar, Pat Schiller and Rashaan Melvin on defense.
Twenty-six players have seen their first action as Huskies this year, including true freshmen Tyler Wedel, Jason Meehan, Rob Sterling and Tommylee Lewis. Five redshirt freshmen have started games: Luke Eakes (TE/FB), Da'Ron Brown (WR), Jamaal Bass (LB), Dechane Durante (S) and snapper Brian Mayer. Going into the Bowling Green game, redshirt freshman Michael Santacaterina could make his first career start as he steps in for Bass at a linebacker spot. Transfers Jamal Womble (RB), Leighton Settle (RB), Jhony Faustin (DB) and Tim Semisch (TE) have also played their first games as Huskies with Faustin and Semisch earning starts.
On the Blocks
Northern Illinois has blocked four kicks this season, including three punts. NIU blocked a punt and a field goal versus Kent State with Dechane Durante getting his hands on a punt, while Ron Newcomb knocked down a late Flashes' field goal attempt. NIU's other punt blocks this season have been by Courtney Stephen, who blocked a punt versus Cal Poly, and Jimmie Ward. Stephen recovered Ward's block versus Army and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown. Ward, a sophomore, already has four career punt blocks. A year ago, the Huskies blocked five punts and seven total kicks.
Senior CLASS Nominee
NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish was selected as one of 30 candidates for the 2011 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award for football. The award honors seniors who have achieved in the community, classroom, character and competition. Harnish overcame a career-threatening knee injury and has played for three different head coaches and four quarterback coaches during his five seasons with the Huskies. Last year, NIU defensive end and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jake Coffman narrowly lost out on winning the Senior CLASS Award. One of 10 finalists, Coffman was named to the 2010 First Team.
So Long Saturdays
The Buffalo game on Oct. 22 marked Northern Illinois' last Saturday game of the 2011 season. NIU enjoyed 10 days between the game at Buffalo and the first of its three straight Tuesday games (Nov. 1 at Toledo). Following this week's Tuesday tilt at Bowling Green, Northern Illinois returns home to take on Ball State on Tuesday, Nov. 15 in DeKalb. The Huskies' final game of the season is Friday, Nov. 26 versus Eastern Michigan.
Home SEVEN Home
Through five of its seven 2011 home games, Northern Illinois has posted a 4-1 record, including a 4-0 mark at Huskie Stadium. The lone loss came to No. 4 Wisconsin in Chicago at Soldier Field Showdown II. NIU's seven home games is the most since 2003, when the Huskies played seven games at Huskie Stadium and went 7-0 in those games en route to a 10-2 record. Northern Illinois played just five home games in 2010. The Wisconsin game marked NIU's second Chicago game after opening the 2007 season versus Iowa at Soldier Field. Northern Illinois returns to the site for the 2012 season opener versus Iowa.
Back to September
Northern Illinois posted a 2-2 record in non-conference play for the third straight season as NIU completed its 2011 non-league slate in the first four weeks of the year. The Huskies won their season opener for the first time since 2003 with a 49-26 victory over Army, then dropped a 45-42 decision at Kansas when the Jayhawks scored on fourth and goal with nine seconds left in the game. The Huskies ran into a powerful Wisconsin team in Chicago and fell to the No. 4 ranked Badgers 49-7 in Soldier Field Showdown II before defeating Cal Poly 47-30 in the non-conference finale to reach the 2-2 mark.
Northern Illinois is ranked among the best football programs in the nation according to the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate (APR). NIU's 987 APR for 2009-10 puts the Huskies in elite company, behind only Northwestern (993) and Rutgers (988) and ahead of teams like Duke (986), Stanford (977) and Vanderbilt (977). One of 14 teams in the country to receive an NCAA Public Recognition Award, NIU's APR of 987 is 41 points above the national average. The APR measures the eligibility, retention and graduation of student-athletes.
Novak's Last Class
Of the 19 seniors on Northern Illinois' 2011 roster, 13 are fifth-year players signed as part of former head coach Joe Novak's last signing class. The 13 were on the Huskie team that won just two games in 2007 but are now among a very small group of Northern Illinois players to have played on three bowl teams. Among NIU's 13 fifth-year seniors, 10 are listed as starters and all 13 are on the two-deep. The group includes four players who were on the 2007 team as walk-ons, receiver Willie Clark, offensive guard Joe Pawlak, fullback Pat McAvoy and tight end Jack Marks, along with 49-game starter Trevor Olson at left tackle and four-year starting quarterback Chandler Harnish.
During Soldier Field Showdown II in Chicago, Northern Illinois announced that Dr. Kenneth and Ellen Chessick made the largest gift ever to Huskie Athletics to name the Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center. The Chessicks' $3 million naming gift was the lead donation in the initial phase of fundraising for the facility and the Huskies' received two additional gifts of more than $1 million, marking the first time that has happened in NIU history. The formal announcement of the campaign was held on Saturday, Oct. 15 (see release page 13). Dr. Kenneth Chessick, a surgeon and attorney who graduated from the Northern Illinois College of Law in 1984 and from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1968 and is the founder of the website Restaurant.com, and his wife, Ellen, have devoted themselves to student academic success for many years and have a long history of philanthropic support to NIU.
Honoring the Past
NIU honored its 1963 Huskie National Champion Football team by raising a banner atop a 63-foot permanent flag pole outside Huskie Stadium prior to the Homecoming game versus Western Michigan. Members of the 1963 team, including all-time great and College Football Hall of Famer George Bork, were in attendance for the flag raising ceremony. The flag pole is located just outside the gates at the southwest corner of Huskie Stadium and can be seen clearly from inside the stadium. The 1963 NIU team posted a perfect 10-0-0 record, capped by a victory over Southwest Missouri State in the Mineral Water Bowl, to claim the College Division Championship.
Back in Black
Northern Illinois unveiled new black jerseys versus Kent State and went with an "all black" look for the first time since the early 1990s. The Huskies wore red jerseys with black pants at home throughout the Joe Novak and Jerry Kill eras. The black jerseys featured red panels underneath each arm. NIU has had the jerseys since this summer and head coach Dave Doeren made the decision to break them out to start the October homestand. Northern Illinois wore black again versus Western Michigan and will be "back in black" for NIU's annual "Black Out" game versus Ball State on Nov. 15.
Adding to the Ranks
Two members of the 2010 Northern Illinois team have been added to NFL rosters as of Monday, Oct. 17, giving the Huskies eight alumni on National Football League rosters. Safety Tracy Wilson was signed to the New York Jets practice squad, while tailback Chad Spann joined the Tampa Bay Bucs' practice unit. NIU's NFL list is led by All-Pro running back Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons), offensive linemen Doug Free (Dallas Cowboys) and Super Bowl winning offensive tackle Ryan Diem (Indianapolis Colts). Former NIU defensive end and current San Diego Chargers' outside linebacker Larry English, who became the highest NFL Draft choice in school history when he was selected with the 16th pick of the first round, was placed on injured reserve by the Chargers last week. Wide receiver Sam Hurd is in his first year with the Chicago Bears after five seasons with Dallas.
Conversions Are Key
Offensively, Northern Illinois ranks tied for 13th in the nation and leads the MAC in third-down conversion percentage with a 50.0 mark (62-of-124). NIU converted 11 of 13 third-down attempts in the Army game, including an 11-for-11 mark through three quarters behind Chandler Harnish. The Huskies were nine-of-12 on third down versus Cal Poly and converted eight times in 15 tries versus Kent State.