NIU confident after Gator loss

By David Lance

Though the Huskies lost 41-10 to Florida Saturday, their plane ride home from Gainesville wasn’t as somber as one might expect.

They weren’t ecstatic about the game’s outcome, but they weren’t devastated either. The Huskies (1-6) have now lost five games in a row, but their heads are still up.

“Sitting in the locker room,” NIU fullback Adam Dach said a few minutes after the game, “I wouldn’t call it elation, I wouldn’t call it a lot of happy people. But I’d call it a lot of confident players because we did some good things out there today.

“It was a lot of guys playing hard; nobody was quitting. That’s why I say at the end of the season, you may look back at this and say it was the turning point of the year. We got some confidence.”

Both head coaches, NIU’s Charlie Sadler and Florida’s Steve Spurrier, agreed the Huskies were competitive throughout the game. Gator players gave the Huskies credit, but they said they didn’t play as best they could.

“We knew what we had to do and we managed to do it, but our intensity level wasn’t where it should have been,” Gators’ defensive back Ephesians Bartley said.

“We were ready to play, but our intensity wasn’t high enough,” Gators’ wide receiver Wille Jackson said. “I think we were a little too relaxed.”

Florida’s intensity seemed high enough on its first two offensive possessions, as it sustained long drives and scored two touchdowns.

The Gators used a no-huddle offense sporadically in the game, and used it in those two scoring drives.

“(The no-huddle) didn’t affect us,” Sadler said. “I’m not sure what they were trying to do out of it.

“Maybe because of our lack of depth, maybe they thought it was a way to get our players a little bit more tired and fatigued. Quite honestly, I thought our players were in as good a shape as what their players were.”

The Huskies were moderately able to shut Florida’s offense down. With Florida up by 14 points in the second quarter, Scott Van Bellinger knocked down a Shane Matthews’ pass on fourth-and-ten. The Gators were in NIU territory.

“I was getting close enough to (Matthews) where I could get my hand on (the ball) and bat it down,” Van Bellinger said. “They’re a great team and they deserved to win, but we made a lot of mistakes.”

“I think our defense is getting better every week,” NIU linebacker Gerald Nickleberry said.

Sadler said the whole team is improving.

“I think our team has gotten to where they play harder and harder every week,” he said. “We’ve got a very young, inexperienced football team that, I believe, is starting to show signs of growing up.

“They’re getting experience underneath their belts. We see it as coaches on the field daily in practice, and how our guys go about their work in learning how to do things in a way that allows you to win.

“It’s starting to show up week after week on the game field,” he said.