McKinney still starts at QB despite critics

By David Lance

It had not been a great evening of football for NIU starting quarterback Stacey McKinney.

And to top it off, with a few minutes left in NIU’s 37-3 loss to Louisiana Tech Saturday, a small portion of the fans began a chant for backup QB Rob Rugai.

“I heard it,” McKinney said. “But it didn’t really get me down. Everybody has a bad game. I never heard that before. I don’t really pay attention to what the fans think or say.”

Immediately after saying that, McKinney changed his mind.

“Now that I think about it, I did feel bad about it,” he said.

McKinney was 2-for-9 passing with 18 yards. He rushed for 5 yards on 14 carries. With the game out of reach, he was replaced by Rugai in the fourth quarter.

But not because the fans wanted it.

“It (chants) doesn’t bother me,” NIU head coach Charlie Sadler said. “I’m sure for a young guy like Stacey, it’s not the best thing to happen to him.

“You wish fans could be more understanding of our situation; know it’s a team game. Not all the responsibilities fall on one guy’s shoulder. It’s a combination of things.

“I’m talking about experience on the (offensive) line, depth on the line. In some cases, the size factor.”

Sadler assessed the two quarterbacks.

“As far as Rob, I felt like he did some good things at Iowa,” Sadler said. “He did some good things (Saturday).

“I watch these guys everyday in practice. I watch them go through the same drills … there’s a reason that Stacey’s the starter and Rob’s backing him up. You look at the games, there’s not a lot of pressure situations that Rob’s been in.”

McKinney, a junior, is still confident.

“I’m not blaming (Saturday’s game) on anyone,” McKinney said. “I just had an off night. I’m hanging in there.”

As for Rugai, the junior is watching and waiting.

“I’m ready to go. I’m just waiting for my opportunity,” Rugai said. “When that opportunity comes, I’ll be ready.”