Pregame Intel: The NIU Huskies

Both Coaches come from Miami of Ohio - NIU's Joe Novak was an assistant at Miami when Randy Walker played there, but this game is shaping up as an early season battle for the 2005 Media Bragging Rights Championship of Chicago...

OK, The real battle for the Chicago Media involves a couple other teams...
You can't ignore the Fighting Irish and the Fighting Illini in the Chicago media mix, but this game is really important for Northwestern because the Cats want to finish over .500 and go bowling.

So, What about these Northern Illinois University Huskies?

#1 these guys can be dangerous to play if you're one of the top ranked Div I teams, especially at home. Recently they've knocked of then #15 Maryland, #21 Alabama and Iowa State. Walker has hinted that the Cats expect to have their "hands full" Saturday.

NIU Coach Joe Novak uses a one back offense that features #1 Junior Tailback Garrett Wolfe [5-7 177] as its "big Dog" [Huskies are supossed to be part wolf anyway]. They also have a first year QB - #3 Junior Phil Horvath [6-3 197]. They put out 5 receivers but the big star of this offense is Wolfe.

The Offensive line is big - 4 of the 5 up front are over 300 pounds, and the last tackle up front is 296. Center Brian Van Acker and Tackle Doug Free are All America Candidates. They make a nice big wall for Wolfe to scoot around, which he did for 148 yards, including a 76 yard TD footrace last week against Michigan.

They also provide decent pass protection,  - NIU passed for 200 yards against Michigan, compared to 211 yards rushing. The downer for their O was 4 fumbles [5 turnovers]

But as Randy Walker has said, the star of the NIU O is Wolfe,
"He's pretty fast, you put the ball in Garrett's arms and special things happen. He has tremendous vision and instincts that you don't coach."
The NIU Offense also respects the NU Linebackers. Wolfe played against MLB Tim McGarigle in high school. They both have been quoted as admiring the other. You can be sure they'll "run into each other" a few times on the field Saturday.

Defensively,
the Huskies run a standard 4-3, that on paper looks about the same size as Ohio with the same experience. They're a little "green" as 13 Huskies made their first start last week - 6 were true freshmen, including 2 linebackers and the two corners - a big opportunity for Brett Basanez. NIU's Strong Safety, Senior Ray Smith is also questionable for the game with a hip pointer.

Hanging over the NIU team

is the threat of the suspension of two players who were involved in a "disturbance," [call it a fight] at a fraternity party last Thursday night. Two Senior Wide Receivers, Sam Hurd and Shatone Powers have admitted they were involved in the fight, but no arrests have been made, and no charges have been filed.

They claim self defense in the altercation, but you have to wonder about two players being out at 1:30 AM on the morning before a big game.

One big Matchup

NIU # Left Tackle Doug Free [6-6 302] against NU's David Ngene and Corey Wootton. The most amazing thing about Free, according to Noveak?
"He can run! You just don't see many offensive linemen that can run at that size like he can." --Joe Novak, Daily Herald
Free is potentially NIU's first first-round NFL draft pick ever, but his one missed assignment last week led to a turnover, but he'll be the first real test of the right side of the NU Defensive Line.
Another matchup we probably won't see -
is at Left Tackle - NIU's Matt Rogers, a Junior with 9 starts, is academically ineligible [not enough credits] and unless the NCAA reverses a ruling, will probably be replaced by Redshirt Frosh Jon Brost [6-5 300]. According to Novak,
"I'm not sure that Saturday Jon didn't play better than Doug did."
Also missing from the Huskie lineup are linebacker Javan Lee, their second leading tackler from last year, and two wide receivers, Marcus Perez and Matt Simon will sit it out - Perez is also in academic trouble.
What the Cats have to do.
  • Exploit the NIU Linebackers and Corners - they're all new, maybe still learning the system?
  • Get good penetration up the middle - lots of talk about NIU's tackles, but they don't talk about the guards much. Can they handle Barry Cofield and Trevor Schultz?
  • Force Fumbles - last week it was 5 turnovers that killed the NIU attack. They're also known for not taking care of the ball - something that Fitz and Washington's gang should exploit.
  • Pressure Horvath - quick release and all, this is only his 4th start at QB - Cofield, Shultz and Wootton in his face just might cause a few more INTs.
  • Don't change the offensive game plan too much - Roberson, Sutton, Conteh or Hamlett, and whichever receivers are open, Brett Basanez just has to get the ball to the right guy and the O-line needs to block.
  • Don't get into a shoot-out, NU needs to get ahead and play ball control.
In Conclusion
Northern Illinois is beatable, the Cats just have to get into both their Defense and Offense early and take control. This might be one game where the Cats can just run it at 'em.

The Game is on ESPN Classic  [or Gameplan on your computer] starting at 2:30 PM [Wildcat Time] and will also be on WGN internet. and WNUR

Dave Eanet and Ted Albrecht will be the radio guys, Mike Adamle and Brian Kincher are on TV.

We'll be chatting at the same spot


You can send your comments or "back door" information
to Coach Roy

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