Tough NIU season gets tougher

By Wes Swietek

As if NIU head football coach Charlie Sadler doesn’t have enough to worry about …

The rookie coach has had to deal with a 1-4 start, a rash of injuries and now he faces the added pressure of facing a tough foe with the eyes of the university—not to mention a potentially sizeable audience viewing SportsChannel’s live broadcast of the game—watching to see if he can top last year’s 73-18 NIU Homecoming win.

Welcome to head coaching.

But Saturday’s 1:05 p.m. match against the Western Michigan Broncos isn’t important for Sadler and his program just because it’s Homecoming.

“One of our goals as a team is to have a winning season. Quite honestly, we need to win that game in order to have a winning season,” Sadler said.

The first obstacle to that winning season is a 4-2 Western Michigan squad which suffered one of its two losses at No. 1 ranked Florida State.

“Western Michigan is going to make for an interesting Homecoming game,” Sadler said. “They’re good, well coached.

“Offensively, they’ve got a good scheme, a quarterback who can control the ball, a huge offensive line … and some good receivers.”

The latest string of misfortune to hit the Huskies was the news that senior linebacker Nick Jones has been permanently sidelined with a spinal injury.

The Huskies’ tri-captain suffered the injury in NIU’s Sept. 28 game at Iowa. Jones was found to have two herniated discs in his cervical spine and has been advised to stop playing football to avoid a serious injury.

To compensate for injuries, the Huskies have switched fullback Brian Cotton to linebacker.

“We’re scrambling. We’re scratching. Now that Nick Jones is hurt, we need some help (at linebacker),” Sadler said. “You bet the kid (Cotton) can handle it. He’s excited about the move. Yes, he may be a two-way player. Not many can do it in this day and age.”

Tailbacks Brett Schroeder and Steve Rodgers are doubtful for Saturday’s match. Linebacker Steve Henriksen, guard Matt Clarkson and defensive end Rob Wagner are probable.

NIU fullback Adam Dach needs only 23 more yards to reach the 3,000 yard mark for his career.

Western Michigan has a 14-6 all-time series edge against the Huskies, but NIU has won the last five meetings. The Huskies won their last outing against Western Michigan, downing the Broncos at Huskie Stadium, 15-7, in 1988.

The game will be broadcast live on SportsChannel Chicago and will be replayed Friday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 19 at 7 a.m.