Rematch! Football prepares for Kansas tornado

Jimmie Ward
Jimmie Ward

When the NIU Huskies football team played Kansas last September, the Jayhawks eked out a 45-42 victory at Memorial Stadium with only nine seconds left on the clock.

They’re not in Kansas anymore.

Coach Charlie Weis and his 1-2 Jayhawks are coming Saturday, Sept. 22, to the Dog Pound – to Huskie Stadium, where the cardinal-and-black home team has won 16 straight games.

NIU (2-1), meanwhile, is riding on the high of last Saturday’s hard-fought, 41-40 win over Army on the road. Quarterback Jordan Lynch threw four touchdown passes and scored on an 88-yard run in that game while amassing 467 yards of total offense.

Game time is 2:30 p.m. STUDENTS ARE ADMITTED FREE with their NIU OneCard.

Huskie head coach Dave Doeren, a native of Kansas who coached at KU from 2002 to 2005, said his team is ready for the Big 12 challenge: “They’re a lot better bunch than we played last year.”

Not that he’s daunted. “I want to be 3-1 next week and not 2-2.”

“We come home after playing 100 snaps of defense and 86 run plays. Our guys feel pretty good. Surprisingly enough, we came out of it pretty injury-free. We’re getting ready to play a very good team at home,” Doeren said.

“We’ve got our hands full, but we know when you play a BCS team, regardless of their record, they’re going to have very good players. Obviously it’s a team we played last year, but it’s not the same team. They’ve got transfers from junior college, from Division I. It’s a very different football team not just personnel wise but schematically,” he added.

Tommylee Lewis and Perez Ashford
Tommylee Lewis and Perez Ashford

“Coach Weis and his staff have done a nice job. They’re playing hard. They’re sound, and they’re not beating themselves a whole lot. They’re tied with two other teams for No. 1 in the nation in takeaways. Some of those are forced, some of them aren’t, but regardless, they’ve gotten them.”

NIU students need to come and cheer, the coach said.

“Those guys make us better – our fans. The stands are right on top of you, so the noise can get going,” he said. “It’s a great place to play a college football game. From what I have been told, the weather is supposed to be great weekend.”

Lynch, who ranks in the Top 30 in the country in rushing, passing efficiency, total offense and scoring, will help reach for that goal.

So will Martel Moore and the rest of the offense, all of whom made Doeren happy last week.

“One of the things I said to our staff was that last year we had to outscore people at times, and sometimes you get into shootout games. That’s just the way it works where an offense gets hot against you, and I think we know that we’re capable of winning a game like that now,” he said.

Martel Moore
Martel Moore

“Jordan has improved each week as a thrower. I think you saw him in the quick game in Week Two. I think you saw him in the downfield passing game in Week Three. You’ve seen him as a runner for three weeks now,” he added. “Martel Moore played a terrific football game on Saturday. He was a difference maker for us.”

Offensive lineman Ryan Brown said he and his teammates are excited for Saturday.

“We take a lot of pride saying we are just as good as these teams – the BCS teams, (the) automatic bid teams. Last year was a really tough game against Kansas, and we just can’t wait to get back out there and prove that we should have won that game last year,” Brown said.

“If they are going to pack the box, then we will just throw over the top of them. We’ve got a great quarterback and awesome wide receivers out there. It’s just one other thing that wears the defense, because we are so dynamic.”

Brown’s confidence on the offensive side of the ball is great news for Huskie fans, most of whom are expecting a classic struggle between defense-minded Doeren and offensive-minded Weis.

“Our guys have got to beat his blockers and our guys have got to cover his receivers. We’ve got to make more plays than his guys do,” Doeren said. “At the end of the game, it’s not about him or me or anybody else. It’s going to be about the 11 guys playing against the other 11 guys, and we’ve got to get those guys ready.”

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

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