Surge leaves Huskies on top

By Carl Ackerman

General Electric would have trouble containing the power surge of the NIU football team’s electrifying performance in its last three games.

The Huskies (5-3) have exploded for 157 points in those three games while surrendering just 25 points.

More importantly, this burst of success has made NIU the king of the mountain in the NCAA’s Division I-A rushing department with a 366.1 yards-per-game average.

“We’re ecstatic,” offensive coordinator Mike Summers said. “This is a national statistic that has been reserved for only the top teams in the nation for the last 20 years. To be where we are at this point, we’re really proud. We also realize that there is a lot left to be done.”

Besides leading the nation in rushing average, the Huskies are tied with powerhouse Nebraska in rushing touchdowns (28). NIU ranks No. 11 in total offense with a 449 yards-per-game average and No. 14 in scoring offense at a 32.8 points-per-game average.

“It’s a great feeling,” head coach Jerry Pettibone said. “That’s one of the basic philosophies of our program. We believe in rushing the football and optioning the football. That is something we have built our (offensive) philosophy on since day one. To get to the point of being No. 1 rushing team in the nation is an indication that our philosophy is the right one.”

NIU quarterback Stacey Robinson has been a pivotal factor to to NIU’s rushing attack. The “Wishbone Wizard” tallied 166 yards in Saturday’s 49-7 crushing of guest Murray State. He owns the nation’s No. 1 slot in quarterback rushing this season with 1,021 yards. He is No. 6 in overall rushing. Robinson also leads the nation in scoring (90 points) and touchdowns (14).

However, Robinson is quick to credit the entire team for its efforts.

“It’s a great honor (to be the No. 1 rushing team). We all deserve it. We worked hard, and we all put our time in on the practice field and weight room and whatever it takes to be in the position we are. It’s an overall effort,” Robinson said.

Although conquering the No.1 rushing spot in the nation may come as a surprise to many, Summers was not caught completely off guard, especially after NIU finished sixth in the nation’s rushing category in 1989.

“We expected to be in the top-five in rushing, but we knew we needed a lot of things to go right for this to happen. First of all we were going to have to play some really good football. We were going to have to have help from our defense with number of possesions and turnovers. We were going to have to continuously apply offensive pressure throughout the course of the ball game regardless of the score or the circumstances,” Summers said.

NIU has been able to do just that, at least in the last three games in which the Huskies have been averaging 52 points per game while allowing 8.3 points per game.

Another key factor to NIU’s offensive success this season is the lack of major injuries. The Huskies have lost just one player for the year. Right now there are several Huskies with injuries but most should be back for the Nov. 3 Akron game.

“The fact that we have been able to stay healthy to this point of the season (is a big factor). We’ve had a number of players take control each game. It seems like each week our offensive line plays better and better,” Summers said.

“It all starts with the offensive line,” Pettibone said. “We can’t just have parts of the line playing well. They all have to be doing the job to create opportunities for everybody.”