Robinson ready to rock ‘dog house’

By Carl Ackerman

When the Huskies storm the field Saturday night at the “Dog House” against Eastern Illinois, it may be the start of NIU’s most prolific football season in its history.

Among the record 52 lettermen returning from last year’s 9-2 season is the “Sauce” of the squad, Heisman Trophy candidate Stacey Robinson.

The 6-1, 189-pound quarterback from Danville appeared in only three games as a sophomore and was a big question in NIU’s attack at the start of last season. Any doubts were erased very quickly and in a big way.

Robinson soon became a household name as he broke the NCAA Division I single-season rushing record for quarterbacks with 1,443 yards. The former record (1,315 yards) was set by Dee Dowis of Air Force in 1987.

“He’s a gifted athlete with excellent size, and he really understands the offense. He can make the right checks and reads, and that’s a real plus,” Huskie head coach Jerry Pettibone said.

After a 3-1 start last season, “Sauce” ran for a then career-high 228 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries against Western Illinois to slide into eleventh place on the NCAA individual rushing list.

“He’s one of the premiere quarterbacks in the nation,” WIU Head coach Randy Ball said. “He makes the offense go. NIU has done a tremendous job recruiting him and should be fortunate to have him.”

The “Wiz” also set the best per-game rushing average by a quarterback and tied for third with 19 touchdowns. He was also No. 2 in rushing touchdowns last season, No. 3 in overall touchdowns and per-carry average (6.5 yards), No. 6 overall in rushing with 131.2 yards-per-game, No.9 in scoring with 114 points, No. 31 in all-purpose yardage and No. 34 in total offense (2,305 yards).

His efforts helped boost NIU’s rushing attack to No. 6 in the nation.

“The reason why he accomplished all this was because our people defended us in a way for him to make all that yardage,” Pettibone said. “The thing that’s unique about our team is that (opponents) can take some options away, but they can’t take all of them away. (Robinson) may not have the same numbers as last year, but if it’s not Stacey Robinson with the ball it’s Adam Dach, the halfbacks, or we’ll use the throwing game. The fact that (Robinson) is out there and the threat of him will allow us to open up opportunities for others.”

The “Sauce” also shined against Kansas State last season with 168 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He capped off the season with 281 yards and five touchdowns in two-and-a-half quarters against Cincinnati.

“It was one-two-three, Stacey Robinson, and we were out of the game. I think he’s the best wishbone quarterback in the country,” Cincinnati head coach Tim Murphy said.

Although Robinson is listed as a Heisman Trophy candidate, he said he is not feeling any pressure.

“I never really considered the Heisman Trophy. It’s a great thing. I’ll give it a go, but if it doesn’t happen I won’t be disappointed. I’ll just take it one game at a time,” Robinson said.

Pettibone believes Robinson is a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy but feels Robinson may have a disadvantage.

“What hurts him the most is that he’s not at a Notre Dame or a UCLA school with a lot of national exposure. But our (competitive) schedule will help us. If we can meet the challenges of the schedule, we’ll bring the attention to the team,” Pettibone said.