Rolling the dice: Football heads to Las Vegas

Drew Hare
Drew Hare

Drew Hare, who tossed two touchdowns and ran for a third last weekend in NIU’s 23-15 win over Northwestern, will start at quarterback Saturday in Las Vegas.

Hare, the third and final Huskie quarterback to take the field in Evanston, quickly earned Coach Rod Carey’s confidence.

“That took all of about two seconds. We’re going to start Drew Hare and we’ll go with him. He’ll be the guy,” Carey said.

“Obviously, he stood in there and threw the ball well and made some timely throws when he had to. His reads were good from the pass game to the run game. The intentions are to let him in there and let him play – see what he can do with a full game and complete control.”

Carey’s offensive line is ready to back up the new guy, who’s taking the reins from Matt McIntosh.

“Drew is a good guy to be around. I would say he’s a little quieter during the week, but on game day, he kind of steps up his game and he’ll be a little bit louder,” offensive lineman Tyler Loos said.

“When he’s in there he takes control of the offense and leads us just like he should. All three quarterbacks do this. They are all the same. They all work hard. They all watch enough film. They all do their job and they all are good leaders.”

Last Saturday’s win – NIU’s third victory over a Big Ten team in the last two seasons and its nation-leading 16th consecutive success on the road in its opponents’ home stadiums – is already ancient history to the 2-0 team now focused on UNLV (1-1).

Coach Rod Carey
Coach Rod Carey

The Sept. 13 game begins at 6 p.m. Central Time. Fans can listen to the action on AM 560 WIND from Chicago and WCPT 92.5 FM from DeKalb.

Although NIU has won all three games played against the Rebels – the last meeting on Oct. 5, 1995, found the Huskies atop a 62-14 final score – the coaches and players are preparing for a tough battle.

UNLV is big on offense, runs around on defense and boasts “youthful” and “really explosive” wide receivers “certainly capable of going the distance at any moment,” Carey said.

“Well, they’re built like a Mountain West team … you watch their matchups, they give you formations that really stretch you defensively in every way,” he said.

“Our players do a good job of getting in here on their off day. We don’t make them do that or anything; they just kind of do it on their own. They get in here and wander around on Mondays in between classes because it’s their off day,” he added. “They come in and talk, and I’ve heard from everybody who’s been in watching: ‘Coach, they’re good.’ They’re always looking for you to say something, too, and I say, ‘Yeah they are good.’ ”

“I got in by myself and watched a little film,” confirmed linebacker Rasheen Lemon, named MAC West Defensive Player of the Week. “They are real nice running the ball, passing the ball. They going to give us a tough time running the ball, I feel. I feel like the coaches will have a great running game plan, and we should just go out there and execute.”

Based on last Saturday’s performance, defensive tackle Corey Thomas expects that will happen: “I think the way that we can react to a situation.”

“A lot of questions arose about the D-line because we lost so many people, but to those you had to fill in those shoes, the motto was, ‘Next man up.’ (We) couldn’t let the linebackers down. We couldn’t let the safeties and the corners down. We had to play our part, and doing that to a Big Ten team just felt even better.”

Go Huskies!Count Carey among those who were impressed.

Forcing a quarterback off his spot and making him “move his feet and run around” when the offense is not designed that way are signs of playing good defense, he said.

“I think we try to do that every week,” he said, “and certainly that will be something that will be one of our goals this week.”

The boss also liked what he saw on offense, including Da’Ron Brown’s pair of touchdown catches. Akeem Daniels led all rushers – Huskie or Wildcat – with 83 yards.

“Good grades across the board,” he said. “Coach Tripodi had them ready to go, and they played well.”

What about Saturday’s extra opponent, namely the desert?

“Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It’s hard going out there,” Lemon said. “It’s raining outside today and it’s over 100 degrees in Vegas right now, so our biggest thing (is that) we have to hydrate, and we should be fine.”

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

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