Big loss doesn’t dishearten NIU

By Carl Ackerman

With all the hype and high expectations floating around this season for NIU’s football team, Saturday’s 60-14 loss against 10th-ranked Nebraska may have knocked the hope out of some peoples’ minds.

However, Head coach Jerry Pettibone and his 1-1 Huskies are doing the only thing they can.

“We must take the positive things from a defeat like this, and use it as an incentive to go forward and bounce back. The worst possible thing we could do is to dwell on what happened to us at Nebraska,” said Pettibone.

NIU stumbled in the first part of the game and fell behind 16-0, but the Huskies inched forward and pulled within five. That was as close as NIU would come to Nebraska, which led 26-11 at the half. After that, it was all Nebraska.

Although the score is not appealing to the NIU fan, that doesn’t always tell the whole story.

“We were very competitive with Nebraska deep into the third quarter. Their depth made the difference in the game. They used 96 players in the game. That wore us down, but I feel good that we competed as well as we did for as long as we did,” Pettibone said.

NIU’s defense gave up 549 total yards, but Pettibone is more concerned with NIU’s recent injuries. Scott Van Bellinger injured his left knee against Nebraska and may need surgery. Erik Jensen suffered a similar injury and will be operated on today. Cary Caliendo was injured in last week’s win over Eastern Illinois and is still a question mark for this Saturday’s game against Toledo.

When Nebraska toyed with the Huskies last season, the halftime score was locked 17-17. As in Saturday’s game, reality smacked NIU in its face when the Cornhuskers unleashed their talents and finished off the Huskies 48-17.

Although the margin of victory was greater in Saturday’s game, Pettibone feels his squad played much better this time around.

“We competed better this year, but Nebraska is a much better team this year. Nebraska has one of the top-three defenses, and their offense is going to get better and better. They’re a complete team,” said Pettibone.

NIU racked up 295 yards of offense against the Cornhuskers defense. Currently, NIU is ranked 18th in rushing offense and 32nd in total offense.

“I think after the season is over with, people are going to look at all the teams that Nebraska played and our offense will have moved the ball against Nebraska as well as anybody they played this year,” said Pettibone.