Welcome home! Football returns Saturday to Huskie Stadium

Rod Carey
Rod Carey

Finally! After more than a month’s worth of road games and a bye week, the NIU football team returns Saturday afternoon to Huskie Stadium.

During those 36 days away from Brigham Field, the team beat the Big Ten in Evanston, dispatched the desert heat and its gridiron opponent in Las Vegas and, unfortunately, lost to Arkansas.

Coming off a week’s rest, Coach Rod Carey’s 3-1 crew begins its Mid-American Conference season – and a three-game homestand – when the winless Golden Flashes of Kent State visit DeKalb.

“Every week, we really do try to focus on one game. It doesn’t matter who we are playing. We treat every team the same and we focus on that week,” quarterback Drew Hare said. “And now that it’s conference play, obviously we are excited about that. But we are going to treat every game likes it’s our biggest.”

NIU mentally moved on from Arkansas long ago, linebacker Sean Folliard said.

“The big thing about a loss like that is that you never want to let it beat you twice,” Folliard said.

“No doubt playing Arkansas and Northwestern were big games, and they were fun games, but like Drew said, it’s always week to week. We are focused on Kent State right now. There is really nothing else to it. We just need to get back down to business.”

Game time is 4 p.m. As always, ALL STUDENTS ARE ADMITTED FREE with their NIU OneCards.

Drew Hare
Drew Hare

Beyond the possibility of watching the Huskie Stadium win streak grow to 28 and a 24th consecutive Mid-American Conference regular season victory, fans should expect to see their Huskies reenergized in the fundamentals.

“Last week, we obviously put the Arkansas game to bed and then got working on Kent State, along with going back to … the simple things, the things that you have to do all of the time,” the coach said.

“We’ve emphasized penalties and playing smarter. We’ve emphasized ball security, not turning the ball over and our kicking game, with the things that failed us in the kicking game, and certainly have gotten those things corrected,” he added. “I won’t say that’s a reaction as much as we just paid probably a little bit more attention to it, but those are three things you have to pay attention to all the time.”

Although the numbers seem to point to another Huskie home win – Kent State is 0-4 this year; NIU leads the all-time series 18-7, with 10 of those wins coming in DeKalb; the Huskies triumphed 38-24 in Ohio last October when Cameron Stingily scrambled for 266 yards – Carey isn’t relaxing.

“With Ohio State and Virginia in there, say what you want … they could easily be sitting here 2-2 or 3-1. I don’t put much stock in that record of theirs right now, because it’s a well-coached football team,” Carey said.

Offensively, “I think they’re a lot like everybody. You try to dress it all up, but you still want to run the football. It’s putting lipstick on a pig,” he added. “I see a really good offensive line, a really skilled tight end, good backs, a quarterback who has a lot of experience and wide receivers who can make you miss, so I think they’re a good offense.”

Aregeros Turner
Aregeros Turner

Naturally, the Huskies also are blessed with a great offense.

Running backs Akeem Daniels and Keith Harris Jr., both of whom sat out the Arkansas game, are expected to play this week. Linebacker Jamaal Bass, who made his 2014 debut against the Razorbacks, is “progressing” and should “expect those snaps to go up” to as many as 45 Saturday, Carey said.

Meanwhile, he added, receivers Chad Beebe, Aregeros Turner and Ezra Saffold are ably performing in the gap left by the injured Tommylee Lewis.

“There isn’t a guy in our program where we say, ‘You’re Tommylee II.’ We don’t have that. What we do have is a really good group there of inside receivers and receivers in general who are really versatile,” Carey said. “All three of those guys are really capable, and you might see it buy committee, more than just one getting the majority of it.”

Fans who can’t make it to Huskie Stadium can watch Saturday’s MACtion on ESPN3 or hear the play-by-play on 560 AM in Chicago or 92.5 FM in DeKalb.

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

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