Coach Dave Doeren and the NIU Huskies (0-1) return to Huskie Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, to continue their non-conference schedule versus the Skyhawks of the University of Tennessee at Martin (1-0).
Students are admitted free with their NIU OneCard. The first 3,000 fans at the game will receive a red “We Are Huskies” T-shirt.
Halftime festivities will feature several high school bands, and postgame fireworks are planned.
In addition, Northern Illinois has joined with the Northern Illinois Food Bank to offer $10 tickets to Saturday’s game with a canned food donation. The donation truck will be set up on the west side of Huskie Stadium.
NIU, coming off a narrow 18-17 defeat to Iowa in Soldier Field Showdown III, has won 15 straight games on its home turf. Jordan Lynch ran for 119 yards on 18 carries, including a 73-yard touchdown scramble, in his debut as NIU’s starting quarterback.
Falling just short of a Soldier Field Showdown III victory was tough, Doeren said. Iowa scored its only touchdown with only 2:15 left on the clock.
“When you play as good as we did for most of the game, it’s always tough to swallow something like that. I know there are a lot of great things that can be taken from the film obviously as well. I told our football team after we watched the film together just to rewind back to 12 months ago to our team and, now, picture where we are at today,” Doeren said.
Sure enough, the coach witnessed plenty of good things in Chicago.
Doeren’s defense now leads the nation in quarterback sacks, collecting six versus the Hawkeyes; one of those belonged to Sean Progar, who was named Mid-American Conference West Division Defensive Player of the Week.
“You know, I think we missed two tackles the entire game. On defense, I think we missed maybe a hundred in the first four games combined last year,” Doeren said.
NIU’s offensive line, with zero career starts, out-gained Iowa 147-139 in yards on the ground.
“Our offense fought and strained. I think our young offensive line proved that they’re going to be tough. They’re definitely physical and they play aggressive, which is what I wanted to see,” Doeren said.
“We believe in our quarterback’s ability to throw,” he added. “Leighton (Settle) and Jamal (Womble) showed that they’re going to break some tackles, and that they have good vision. I think those guys will get more carries because of that.”
Although Lynch’s stats were hurt by drops of four of his passes, Doeren was pleased by Saturday’s performance. “It (was) his first game. He didn’t throw any interceptions. He had a scramble in the red zone where a lot of new quarterbacks would have thrown it up and thrown a pick.”
Offensive lineman Matt Krempel said his teammates are communicating “constantly” with last year’s players.
“We understand what we need to do to fill those shoes. It’s just the process of actually doing it that we need to work on,” Krempel said. “We feel like we can do very well and do the same thing that the offensive line did last year. (Last Saturday) being our first start with the entire offensive line, and doing what we did, I think really builds confidence and gets the butterflies out.”
The Huskies also left Soldier Field healthy, Doeren said, “the one thing we were really excited about coming out that game, a physical game when you play Iowa.”
Saturday’s first-ever meeting between NIU and UT-Martin, which beat Memphis on the road last week, will bring its own challenges.
UT-Martin runs “a similar offensive style to Iowa, a pro-style offense,” Doeren said.
On the other side of the ball, he said, “they run a blitz 3-3 defense similar to what Army did last year, and bring a lot of pressure. They created three turnovers in their game this past weekend.”
Players include a quarterback who’s a thousand yards away from being the all-time passing leader in school history, a receiver who’s eight touchdowns short of becoming of the all-time scoring leader and an NFL prospect in defensive tackle Montori Hughes, Doeren said.
“We’re going to have to play extremely well,” the NIU head coach said, “and I think, for our guys, that’s great (UT-Martin) had a great win because it kind of snaps us back in.”
For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.