Football team to battle Buffalo for Homecoming

Senior tailback Chad Spann leads the Mid-American Conference in rushing, averaging 107 yards per game.
Senior tailback Chad Spann leads the Mid-American Conference in rushing, averaging 107 yards per game.

NIU football will look to extend its winning streak to four games when the Huskies host the Bulls from the University at Buffalo during Saturday’s 104th Homecoming celebration.

Two of the “outlying” Mid-American Conference schools — Buffalo (2-3, 1-0) on the eastern edge and Northen Illinois (4-2, 2-0) at the west — will meet at 2:30 p.m. in Huskie Stadium for just the seventh time ever on the football field and for the fifth time as league opponents.

NIU has won every MAC game between the teams and has won five straight games in the series overall after losing the series opener in 1968 by a 20-7 score. Since that time, Northern Illinois has claimed wins over Buffalo by 17, 24, 63, 31 and 18 points. The series includes a 73-10 victory by Northern Illinois in 2000.

This is the first game between the Huskies and Bulls since 2006, when Northern Illinois racked up 344 rushing yards (263 of those belonging to Garrett Wolfe) en route to a 31-13 victory at Huskie Stadium. The Huskies had 500 yards of total offense and averaged 9.1 yards per play that day.

Coach Jerry Kill expects Buffalo carries a “big edge” on their trip to DeKalb thanks to their bye week last Saturday.

“They’ve had 14 days to get ready for this game. That’s a huge, huge advantage. That’s an equalizer. There’s no question about that, so it’s something of concern,” Kill said. “We can’t prepare for ghosts, we have to prepare with what we know they do, do the best we can and make adjustments throughout the game. The first quarter there could be some adjusting, there’s no question about that.”

Buffalo is likely to get 90 offensive snaps during the game, he added, and will bring its defensive blitz: “When you play 90 snaps it’s a difficult thing,” Kill said. “I think we did that to Temple. We kept their defense out there a while. You keep somebody out there a while and that’s when big plays happen.”

Quarterback Chandler Harnish earned a second-straight MAC West player of the week honor for his performance last weekend against Temple.
Quarterback Chandler Harnish earned a second-straight MAC West player of the week honor for his performance last weekend against Temple.

Of course, NIU is coming off a huge 31-17 victory over Temple.

Quarterback Chandler Harnish, who tossed two touchdowns and accounted for 282 yards of total offense in that game, was named the Mid-American Conference West Division Offensive Player of the Week. He’s the first Huskie quarterback in school history to win back-to-back MAC offensive player of the week honors.

 “(Temple is) a great team, and we came out and battled through adversity. Both sides were clicking well,” defensive end Jake Coffman said. “A win of that magnitude is definitely momentum going into the following weeks. We’re staying grounded because our focus is on the MAC championship, so we have a long road ahead of us.”

NIU’s Homecoming is the oldest major college alumni gathering in the state — the annual celebration dates back to an alumni football game played Oct. 10, 1903 — and one of the longest-celebrated Homecoming traditions in the country.

Northern Illinois is 64-29-10 all-time in its Homecoming football games and has won 11 of its last 12 games in front of the alums. In Huskie Stadium, NIU is 30-13-2 in homecoming games.

For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.

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