Huskies Have Found Their Quarterback

If there is a silver lining to be found in Northern Illinois' 31-27 loss on Saturday night in the Metrodome to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, it was that NIU coach Jerry Kill found the answer to who will lead his offense at quarterback this season.

Following a summer where a controversial battle between redshirt freshman Chandler Harnish and last year's starter senior Dan Nicholson took place for the QB spot, it is now clear that Harnish is the man to lead the Huskies.

Kill played things close to the vest and did not announce his starting quarterback until about a half hour before kickoff on Saturday night. He chose Harnish primarily because he knew Kill's offensive schemes the best after starting at QB throughout the spring while Nicholson sat recovering from shoulder surgery on his throwing arm.

In his debut on the road against a Big 10 opponent, Harnish completed 17 of 29 passes for 326 yards, with two touchdowns and no turnovers.

"I thought Chandler played very well for a young man who basically last year was a work team guy who went into a college football game in a Big 10 situation," said Kill. "I thought he handled himself very well, he didn't turn over the football. He was very accurate throwing it. He showed great composure. He gave us an opportunity to win the game, we just didn't get it done."

Harnish came into a difficult situation entering a loud hostile dome environment for his first game. Added to that, the Huskies didn't know what to expect from the Gophers defense. "They played a lot of Cover-1 and had a lot of people in the box," Kill recalled. "I think they thought that we have a freshman quarterback, we're going to make him prove he can throw it. Chandler proved that he can throw it. That's going to help us a lot down the road. I certainly feel more comfortable about things from a throwing perspective that I even did through practice."

Chandler hooked up twice with fellow freshman Nathan Palmer for touchdowns including a 91 yard pass play that was the fifth longest ever at NIU and a 52 yard connection for their second TD. "Not knowing what they were going to do with a new defensive coordinator," observed Kill. "They played us a lot of Cover-1 and helped them stop the run game. We had a mismatch and we took advantage of it. It was good execution by Chandler and Nate both."

Harnish actually owes a lot of his development over the last year to Nicholson. "He was very calm and collected," Kill said. "I think Danny helped him a lot. Our quarterback coach has done a great job with him. I think Danny Nicholson and him are very close and have worked together. I think that certainly helps. He's going to get nothing but better, and that's a good thing."

The next challenge for Harnish comes on Saturday night in a MAC battle against Western Michigan in Kalamazoo. If Harnish continues to improve at his current rate, he'll give the Broncos' defense something to worry about.

Larry English Update

NIU defensive end Larry English played the second half at Minnesota with his right thumb heavily bandaged after bending it in the first half. When asked about English's status on Monday, Kill responded "Larry is fine."

Harnish Named MAC West Offensive Player of the Week

In his first start as a freshman, Harnish completed 17-of-29 passes for 326 yards and two TDs and no interceptions at Minnesota in a 31-27 last-second loss. He had scoring passes of 52 and 91 yards. The Huskies offense produced 27 points, tying for its highest total in the last nine games dating back to last year.

Larry English and Mike Salerno were additional nominees.

Larry English, DE, Northern Illinois (4 tackles, 2 tfl totaling 12 yards, a sack and a fumble recovery at Minnesota)

Mike Salerno, PK, Northern Illinois (kicked FG from 39 and 49 yards, and booted six kickoffs an average of 61.7 yards at Minnesota)

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