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Envelope, please! Football to kick off Thursday, reveal new QB

August 26, 2014
Da’Ron Brown (4) celebrates a touchdown.

Da’Ron Brown celebrates a touchdown.

As the tiresome summer reality shows finally reveal their destined-for-obscurity winners, it’s Rod Carey who soon will truly provide “the moment we’ve all been waiting for.”

Who will quarterback the NIU Huskies football team? Drew Hare? Anthony Maddie? Matt McIntosh?

“Each one of them has a different release,” wide receiver Da’Ron Brown said, “but at the same time, they all give us an opportunity to win the MAC, so it’s up to you to catch the ball.”

Barring late-breaking news, the answer comes at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, when the winningest football team in Illinois and the Mid-American Conference kicks off the 2014 season at Huskie Stadium.

“Getting closer, getting closer,” Carey told reporters Monday.

“Here’s my expectation. My expectation is real easy for the quarterback. I don’t care who’s in there. They have all performed at such a high level that I expect that person that’s in there to play well, and they have proven that they can do that right now.”

Play well like Jordan Lynch? Not exactly.

“We don’t have a quarterback that we can run quarterback powers 30 times a game. I think there have been two in the history of college football who can do it – Lynch and Tebow – so that’s not going to be us. It will be more traditional – if you want to use that word – as far as running backs getting more carries,” said Carey, who’s 12-3 since taking over the Huskies prior to their appearance in the 2013 Orange Bowl.

“Because we have a really veteran group over there on offense … they really don’t get into if this (quarterback) is going to affect us,” he added. “It’s an expectation that our whole group has: No matter who’s in, let’s go.”

NIU Huskie Football fans

Yes, let’s go! All students are admitted FREE with their NIU OneCards!

  • Students are encouraged to attend the “We Are Huskies Tailgate” featuring free food and tailgate fare from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in Central Park.
  • Freshmen and new transfer students interested in leading the team onto the field MUST wear their gray Northern PACT T-shirts to participate in the procession.
  • At 5:30 p.m., new students will process from Central Park to the northeast gate of Huskie Stadium near the softball field. New students not attending the tailgate who wish to join the procession onto the field should gather at the northeast gate at 5:30 p.m.
  • Game Day information, including tailgating

NIU, which earned four straight MAC West titles in the last four seasons, and in 2013 made a MAC record sixth-straight bowl appearance, returns 16 starters for 2014: nine on offense, six on defense and one specialist.

Winners of 24 of their last 27 games, posting a 46-10 tally since 2010, the Huskies still own a nation-leading, 26-game winning streak in their home stadium, dating back to 2009. They also rule the country with 15 consecutive road victories in games played in their opponents’ home stadiums, including wins at Army, Purdue and Iowa.

The Huskies’ 46 wins over the last four years ranks second among all FBS teams behind only Oregon and ahead of Boise State (45), LSU (44) and Oklahoma (43).

Ladell Fleming

Ladell Fleming

Although Presbyterian finished 3-8 in 2013, going 1-4 in the Big South Conference, Coach Carey is not taking the Blue Hose lightly.

“Coach Nichols has a fine football team and, to his words, he said it: He probably has his best football team to date, and I believe it. They are a fine football team. They are obviously well coached. It doesn’t take more than 15 minutes of watching film to tell that their schemes are solid,” Carey said.

“They have some really good players. No. 84, their wide receiver, is as good a player as there is in the country, I firmly believe that. I think he is going to present a big time challenge for us. No. 2, as preseason All-American, as a returner and slot receiver, he can move now, he can run with anybody. He’s a good football player,” he added.

“Their quarterback? They took the redshirt off him about midway through the year and played him as a true freshman, so he’s got a lot of experience under his belt now. I am sure he has matured in their system with the spring practice (and) now fall camp behind him. He’s a nice player that throws the ball well, can move and can hurt you with his legs.”

NIU safety Dechane Durante is equally cautious.

“We aren’t going to look past them. Because of the success we had, every team is going to give us their best shot so we have to come to play,” Durante said. “Last year, Eastern Illinois came in here and gave us their best shot and almost stole it from us.”

Fans who attended that Sept. 21 home opener, when Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo and his Panthers briskly scored 20 points before many Huskie fans had found their seats, aren’t likely to forget.

Meanwhile, the players aren’t quick to forget how the 2013 season shockingly ended with back-to-back losses at the MAC Championship and the Poinsettia Bowl.

Akeem Daniels

Akeem Daniels

“Last season was a little bit of a disappointment because we went into those last two games a little unprepared and disoriented,” linebacker Ladell Fleming said. “Getting back on the field at home should be fun. We’ve been looking forward to it since our last game. I’ve had a sour taste in my mouth since we started spring ball into the summer.”

Also eager to return is Akeem Daniels, who missed the 2013 season to nurse a foot injury.

Daniels is among several running backs expected to shine this year; Carey also puts Joel Bouangnon, Jordan Huff, Draco Smith and Keith Harris Jr. on that pedestal.

“Akeem looks good,” Carey said. “Obviously not playing football for a year, he had some rust, but through the course of spring ball and fall camp, he has knocked it off. He has gotten hit. He has been bumped and bruised at times; he feels good that he has had those bumps and bruises. I would expect him to carry the bulk of the load just because he is so versatile.”

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