Nov. 11, 2011
2011 NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES FOOTBALL
Ball State (6-4, 4-2) at Northern Illinois (7-3, 5-1)
Nov. 15, 2011 | 7 p.m. (CT) | ESPNU
DeKalb, Illinois | Huskie Stadium | 24,000
HUSKIE FOOTBALL FACTS
2011 Record/MAC Record: 7-3/5-1
2010 Record: 11-3
MAC (Regular Season) Record/Finish: 8-0/1st, West Division
Head Coach: Dave Doeren
Record at NIU & Career Record: 7-3/First Year
Alma Mater/Year: Drake/1994
Basic Offense/Defense: Multiple/4-3
First Year of Football: 1899
All-Time Record: 519-463-51
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: 6-4/4-2
2010 Record/MAC Record/Finish: 4-8/3-5/4th West
Head Coach: Pete Lembo
Alma Mater/Year: Georgetown '92
Record at BSU/Year: 6-4/1st
Career Record/Year: 85-40/11th
Location: Muncie, Indiana
Colors: Cardinal & White
Stadium: Scheumann Stadium
President: Dr. Jo Ann M. Gora
Athletic Director: Tom Collins
Ticket Information: 765-285-1474
Athletics Website: www.ballstatesports.com
FB Media Relations Contact: Joe Hernandez
Phone: 765-285-8242 (O); 765-730-4614 (C)
E-Mail Address: email@example.com
2011 BSU SCHEDULE
Overall: Ball State leads 20-16-2
In DeKalb: Ball State leads 11-7-2
In MAC Games: Ball State leads 15-10
Streak: NIU, 2
Last Meeting: NIU 59, Ball State 21 (11-20-10)
First Meeting: NIU 6, Ball State 6 (10-4-41)
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, Doeren has led Northern Illinois to a 7-3 record, 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-Ball State ON ESPNU
The Northern Illinois-Ball State game will air on ESPNU as NIU will be featured on an ESPN network for the third consecutive Tuesday. The game will also be available on ESPN3 through the WatchESPN.com website. Rob Stone will handle play-by-play duties with former Florida State quarterback Danny Kanell serving 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 Thursdays from 7-8 p.m. during the 2011 season. The final show of the season will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 22 prior to the Eastern Michigan game. 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.
"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).
HUSKIE NEWS & NOTES
Home Sweet Home!
Northern Illinois returns to Huskie Stadium for the first time in a month when the Huskies play host to MAC West rival Ball State Tuesday night, Nov. 15, on ESPNU. NIU has won five consecutive games, including three straight on the road, to move into a tie for first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division.
Northern Illinois is establishing a reputation as one of the most consistently successful programs among non-automatic qualifying Bowl Championship Subdivision (BCS) teams. NIU is currently one of only FIVE teams from "non-AQ" BCS leagues to win six or more games in each of the last four seasons (since 2008). The others with that distinction are TCU, BYU, Southern Miss and Boise State. Air Force and Hawaii are the only other teams that could be added to that list.
Tuesday night's game versus Ball State is NIU's annual "Blackout" game with all fans encouraged to wear black. The school will distribute black Thunderstix and the Huskie team will wear its new black jerseys for the third straight home game. In addition, there will be a postgame fireworks show. NIU's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is also holding a canned food drive. Fans who bring a canned food donation will receive a coupon which they can use to purchase a ticket for just $8.
Northern Illinois is in its 26th season as a member of the Mid-American Conference in 2011. In MAC games, Northern Illinois is 105-90-2 all-time and the Huskies are 70-45 (.609) in conference games since rejoining the MAC in 1997. The Huskies have won 13 of their last 14 and 18 of their last 22 MAC regular season contests. NIU is playing its 15th consecutive campaign as a member of the MAC after initially competing as a league member from 1975-85.
Doeren's Debut Season
Dave Doeren has led Northern Illinois to a 7-3 record and returned the Huskies to bowl eligibility in his first season as coach at NIU, and in his first season as a head coach after 16 seasons as a collegiate assistant. The 21st head football coach in school history, and the 10th since Northern Illinois became a major college program 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).
Northern Illinois and Ball State meet for the 15th consecutive season, every season since the Huskies rejoined the MAC in 1997. The teams have played 38 times overall with the Cardinals holding a 20-16-2 edge in the all-time series. Ball State has won 15 of the 25 games the teams have played as league foes and are 11-7-2 versus the Huskies in DeKalb. NIU has won the last two meetings and three of the last five games since 2006. BSU has defeated the Huskies in two of the last three games between the teams at Huskie Stadium.
Complete Game Victory
A year ago in Muncie, Northern Illinois excelled on offense, defense and special teams en route to a 59-21 victory over Ball State. The Huskies blocked three punts, Chandler Harnish threw for 247 yards and two scores, Chad Spann scored three rushing touchdowns and the NIU defense held Ball State to just 268 yards and two-of-10 third down conversions. Ball State punted eight times, two of which were blocked by Jordan Delegal. Harnish's TD passes both went to Nathan Palmer on receptions of 37 and 47 yards. With its eighth straight win, NIU secured a spot in the 2010 MAC Championship game.
Home Field Advantage
All-time, Northern Illinois is 144-97-2 at Huskie Stadium since its opening in 1965. NIU owns a .597 winning percentage at home, including a 54-17 mark (a .761 winning percentage) in its last 71 DeKalb contests and a 38-11 record since 2003. Northern Illinois is 4-0 in its Huskie Stadium home games so far this year and went undefeated (5-0) on Brigham Field a year ago. Overall, NIU has won 13 straight games at Huskie Stadium. The Huskies' last home loss was on Sept. 26, 2009 when Idaho claimed a 34-31 victory in DeKalb.
Streaking in the Stadium
Northern Illinois' 13-game winning streak at Huskie Stadium is the school's longest since the school-record 14-straight home victories between Nov. 5, 1988 and Sept. 14, 1991. NIU has also won 10 straight Mid-American Conference games in DeKalb, with the last loss at Huskie Stadium a 33-30 overtime setback to Central Michigan on Nov. 12, 2008. The current streak began on Oct. 3, 2009 with a 38-6 win over Western Michigan. The Huskies went on to defeat Akron, Eastern Michigan and Ball State at home that season, then posted a perfect 5-0 record at Huskie Stadium in 2010. NIU has won home games over Army, Cal Poly, Kent State and Western Michigan this year.
At home, Northern Illinois is 59-38-1 (.607) all-time in Mid-American Conference games with a 38-19 (.667) mark versus its league counterparts in Huskie Stadium since 1997. The Huskies have won 13 of their last 14 and 10 straight league home games. NIU's only home league loss over the last four seasons came in overtime to Central Michigan on Nov. 12, 2008.
Northern Illinois continues its "ESPNovember" with an appearance on ESPNU versus Ball State. It is the third consecutive ESPN network game for Northern Illinois as the Toledo and Bowling Green games were both carried on ESPN2. Since 2005, NIU has played 12 November games in front of the ESPN cameras with eight games on ESPN2, one on ESPN Classic and three on ESPNU. Including the wins at Toledo and Bowling Green, NIU is 5-3 on ESPN2 in November, 3-0 on ESPNU and 0-1 on Classic.
If You're Counting
The Ball State game will be the 1,034th game in Northern Illinois history and the Huskies will be looking for their 520th victory. NIU has a 519-463-51 all-time record for a winning percentage of .527. Since 2000, Northern Illinois is 86-59 (.593) and has secured its 10th winning campaign with seven wins in 2011. Over that time, NIU owns the best mark of any of the three Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the state of Illinois, ahead of both Illinois and Northwestern.
For the fourth year, Northern Illinois and Ball State will play for "The Bronze Stalk," a traveling trophy designed specifically for this rivalry in honor of the locales of both institutions. DeKalb artist Renee Bemis designed the trophy, which depicts a cornstalk. The Bronze Stalk has made its home in DeKalb in each of the last two seasons.
Northern Illinois running backs coach and special teams coordinator Eddie Faulkner finds himself on the opposite side of the NIU-Ball State match-up in 2011 after spending the last six seasons coaching running backs for the Cardinals. Faulkner, a native of Muncie, also served as BSU's offensive coordinator for the past two years and recruited many of the players on the current Ball State roster. He is the third NIU coach to face the team he coached last year, joining Dave Doeren (Wisconsin) and Richard McNutt (Kent State).
Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish is making a name for himself as one of the top dual threat signal callers in the nation. Harnish has rushed for over 100 yards and passed for more than 200 in each of the Huskies' last two games as he ran for 151 yards and passed for 294 in NIU's win over Bowling Green after totaling 133 rushing and 265 yards passing (with six TD passes) at Toledo. He leads all FBS quarterbacks with 1,022 rushing yards on 127 carries and is averaging 102.2 yards per game to rank 25th in the country (as of Nov. 10) and second in the MAC. With an average of 8.0 yards per carry, he is on pace to destroy the NIU single-season mark for yards per carry of 6.76 set by Adam Dach in 1990. His passing efficiency rating of 155.6 (on 168-of-267 passing with 20 touchdowns, 4 interceptions for 2,256 yards) ranks in the Top 15 in the country and second in the MAC.
Dual Threat II
With 151 rushing and 294 passing yards at Bowling Green, Chandler Harnish surpassed the 1,000 and 2,000-yard marks in rushing and passing yardage for the season to become only the 10th player in NCAA FBS history to reach both marks in the same year. Harnish has 1,022 rushing yards and 2,256 passing to add his name to the list that includes Colin Kaepernick of Nevada, who reached the marks three times, Brad Smith of Missouri (twice), Texas' Vince Young, Auburn's Cam Newton and Michigan's Denard Robinson, among others. Harnish is the second MAC player to accomplish the feat, as he joins CMU's Dan LeFevour in the 1,000/2,000 club, and it has been done only 13 times previously.
He's Got Legs...
Chandler Harnish joined Stacey Robinson (1988-90) as the only Huskie quarterbacks to gain 2,000 career rushing yards. Harnish now ranks 10th on NIU's all-time rushing list with 2,626 yards on 471 carries and needs just 102 yards (his per game average) to surpass Robinson and take over ninth place on the all-time chart. Harnish also has 22 career rushing scores, with a career-high nine in 2011, to rank tied for ninth all-time in that category. His nine career 100-yard rushing games are 10th on NIU's career chart. He has led NIU in rushing in six games this season, including each of the last five, and currently ranks second in the MAC, and 25th in the country, in rushing yards per game.
Quarterback Chandler Harnish currently owns or shares eight Huskie career passing and total offense records after tying the NIU career mark for touchdown passes with a career best SIX at Toledo (tied for the second-highest single game in school history and in MAC history), and two more at Bowling Green. Harnish is tied with College Football Hall of Famer George Bork (1960-63) as each have 60 career touchdown passes. In 43 career games, Harnish has completed 618-of-993 passes for 7,984 yards (all records) with five 300-yard passing games, including two this season. He has accounted for 10,610 yards of total offense and 82 touchdowns (rushing and passing) in 1,464 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). 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. The Huskie quarterback has rushed and passed for more than 100 yards in the same game eight times.
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 1990 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.
A Different Defense
After giving up 60 points in a Northern Illinois WIN the week before, the Huskie defense put together one of its best performances of the season at Bowling Green. After giving up an 83-yard touchdown pass on the game's first play, the Huskies held the Falcons scoreless until 14 seconds before half, when BG engineered a one-minute touchdown drive. NIU shutout Bowling Green in the second half to record its first shut out half of the season while allowing the Falcons just 90 yards of total offense and forcing two three-and-outs. For the game, Bowling Green had four three-and-outs and just 79 rushing yards.
Northern Illinois junior noseguard Nabal Jefferson (Chicago, Ill./Marist) earned first team Capital One Academic All-District honors this week and is now eligible to earn Academic All-America recognition from the College Sports Information Directors of America, the organization announced this week. Jefferson, an accountancy major with a 3.91 grade point average who is having a career year on the NIU defensive line with 28 tackles, is the Huskies' first Academic All-District selection since 2008.
Speading the Wealth
Senior Willie Clark became the sixth different Huskie receiver to record multiple touchdown catches this season after he scored twice on long pass receptions at Bowling Green, giving him three TD catches this season. Clark also became the third different NIU receiver to have a 100-yard day this year with four catches for a career-best 109 yards versus the Falcons. Martel Moore (130 yards on 6 catches at Central Michigan) and Nathan Palmer (120 yards on 4 catches at Toledo) are the other 100-yard Huskie receivers in 2011. Moore and Palmer are tied for the team lead in TD catches with four.
Sophomore tailback Akeem Daniels made the longest play of the day, and the longest reception of the season, Tuesday at Bowling Green when he caught a 79-yard touchdown pass from Chandler Harnish on the fly sweep. Daniels' catch and run was the first score of the second half and gave NIU a 31-14 lead. It was the longest pass play for the Huskies since 2008 when then-freshmen Harnish and Nathan Palmer connected on a 91-yard pass play versus Minnesota.
Wild One at Toledo
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 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 to fall 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.
After leading the Huskies to a 63-60 win at Toledo by throwing six touchdown passes - the second-most in MAC and in NIU history - including the game-winner with 19 seconds left, Chandler Harnish was named the Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week and the Rivals.com MAC Player of the Week for the third time this year. Harnish completed 17-of-26 passes for 265 yards and rushed 16 times for 133 yards. He threw touchdown passes of 6, 71, 16, 19, 15 and 4 yards to pick up MAC POTW honors for the eighth time in his career. Freshman kickoff returner Tommylee Lewis also earned MAC West Specialist of the Week recognition for the Toledo contest after returning a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns (see below).
Lightning Strikes - Twice
Versus Toledo, fans had barely settled in their seats when NIU freshman Tommylee Lewis brought the game's opening kickoff back 100 yards for a 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 touchdown of the game. That return is tied for the ninth-longest scoring play, and fifth longest kickoff return, in NIU history.
Lewis joined a group of 13 players in Football Bowl Subdivision (NCAA Division I-A) history who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game. The list includes 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.
Huskie senior offensive tackle Trevor Olson will set the NIU school record for games started Tuesday night when he is slated to make his 51st career start. At Bowling Green, Olson tied former Huskie center Eddie Adamski (2006-09) with his 50th career start. Olson, the Huskies' starting left tackle since 2008, was a first team All-MAC choice a year ago. To date, Olson's career has taken a similar path to that of one of his NIU predecessors at left tackle, Dallas Cowboys 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 16 nationally in rushing offense (9th), scoring offense (10th), total offense (16th) and just as importantly to that group, the Huskies rank fifth in the country in fewest sacks allowed. Northern Illinois has given up one sack or less in nine of the team's 10 games this year and has not allowed a sack in its last five games, since the Central Michigan game. The five veterans up front have made 155 combined starts, led by Olson's 50 and former walk-on Pawlak's 37. Otis and Wedige have 24 starts each; Pegram has started 20 contests.
Forty is the New 30
With its season-best 63-point outburst at Toledo, Northern Illinois broke its school record for most 40-point games in a season and the Huskies have now hit that mark in eight of 10 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 41.6 points per game, above last year's average of 38.0 points per game, which stands as the school record.
Hoosier State Hook-Up
Senior Nathan Palmer (Elkhart, Ind.) was on the receiving end of three Chandler Harnish (Bluffton, Ind.) touchdown throws at Toledo, 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. Palmer, who leads the team in receiving with a career-best 34 catches for 473 yards, recorded the second 100-yard day by an NIU receiver this season. His touchdowns came on plays of six, 71 and 19 yards.
Through 10 games, Northern Illinois opponents have ZERO punt return yards. Opponents have returned only five of Ryan Neir's 37 punts and those returns have not resulted in any positive yardage. Of Neir's 37 punts, 23 have been fair caught and 10 have resulted in the opponent starting inside the 20-yard line. Neir has not had a kick go into the end zone. NIU ranks 76th in the country in net punting.
In the Zone
NIU is tied for second in the MAC in red zone offense with 50 scores in 55 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line, including a 14-for-15 showing in its last two games. The Huskies have scored 38 touchdowns and 12 field goals from inside the 20 for a 90.9 percent rate. Northern Illinois has been in the red zone 11 more times than any other school in the league and have at least 10 scores more than any other school. NIU's 38 TDs is five more than the No. 2 team. The Huskies 91 percent conversion percentage ranks tied for 13th in the country.
Senior tailback Jasmin Hopkins has scored eight rushing touchdowns in the Huskies' last four games with a season-best three scores versus both Western Michigan and Buffalo. Hopkins, who ranks second on the team in rushing behind Chandler Harnish with 719 yards, now has 14 touchdowns, 13 rushing and one receiving. He has scored at least one touchdown in eight games and has four multiple touchdown games. With 14 TDs in 147 touches, Hopkins scores once every 10.5 times he touches the ball.
Back in his middle linebacker position for the first time since 2009, senior Pat Schiller leads the Huskie defense and ranks sixth in the MAC in tackles. Schiller has a career-best 86 tackles on the year with 35 solo stops and 51 assists. He has recorded a career-high eight tackles for loss and has 210 career tackles. Schiller has 10 or more tackles in four games this season.
After making a name for himself as a true freshman on special teams 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 77 and his 37 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 choice a year ago, leads NIU and is ranked sixth in the league with 4.5 quarterback sacks. Progar has 105 tackles and 26.5 tackles for loss in his career. His 14.5 sacks rank eighth on the career list. Meanwhile, defensive end Alan Baxter and defensive tackle Ron Newcomb are having career years. Newcomb, a senior, had never made more than 13 tackles in a season entering 2011 but has 39 stops and 9.5 tackles for loss this year. Versus Kent State, he 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 9.5 tackles for loss and has three quarterback 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, the lowest 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. KSU's 63 passing yards were the fewest since Eastern Michigan tallied just 11 passing yards 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.
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.
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 9.6 points per game with his 96 points (51 PATs and 15 FGs), tied for fourth on NIU's single season list. Sims ranks 16th nationally in overall scoring and is tied for 12th in field goals. His 51 PATs made already rank tied for second on the NIU single season chart. Sims made four-of-six field goals at Central Michigan, and hit all four of his three pointers versus Kent State 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.
Twenty-six players have seen their first action as Huskies this year, including true freshmen Tyler Wedel, Jason Meehan, Rob Sterling and Tommylee Lewis. Six redshirt freshmen have started games: Luke Eakes (TE/FB), Da'Ron Brown (WR), Jamaal Bass (LB), Michael Santacaterina (LB) Dechane Durante (S) and snapper Brian Mayer. 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. 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.
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). The Ball State game is NIU's third straight Tuesday night game in November. Following this week's Tuesday tilt, Northern Illinois plays host to Eastern Michigan on Friday, Nov. 26.
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. 7 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 September. 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. 7 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.
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 "Blackout" game versus Ball State on Nov. 15.
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. 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.