Huskies avenging 45-0 downfall ‘Cajuns’ explosive offense dangerous

By Eric Burt

Revenge will be the driving factor for the Huskie football squad this Saturday.

After suffering a 45-0 loss to Southwestern Louisiana last year, NIU looks to turn the tables on the Ragin‘ Cajuns beginning at 1 p.m. in Huskie Stadium.

“If there’s ever been a revenge game, it’s this one,” defensive tackle Rodney Akis said. “We’ve had great success this year but it won’t mean diddly if we don’t get this one back. It’s definitely a pride thing.”

During last season’s loss, the Cajuns racked up 27 first downs and 509 yards of offense, while putting together the worst shutout loss NIU has suffered since a 54-0 game against Southern Illinois in 1976.

The 5-3 Cajuns have won four of their last five games. One of their three losses came at the hands of Louisiana Tech (40-14), a team that beat the Huskies 42-21 three weeks ago.

“We went down there and they took it to us,” linebacker Ron Delisi said. “This year they’re coming to the ‘Doghouse’ and we play pretty good here. We don’t expect to lose, we’ve won four games here already.”

The Huskies are holding at No. 7 in the nation in team rushing (311.3 yards per game) and are 24th in rushing defense (117.5 ypg) and 25th in team scoring (28.3 ppg).

Quarterback Stacey Robinson enters the game as the No. 1 rushing quarterback in the nation with 892 yards and is the No. 19 rusher, averaging 111.5 ypg.

“I don’t pay attention to the stats,” Robinson said. “I just focus on the game. Getting that ‘W’ in the lefthand column.”

The Huskie defense will face its toughest challenge of the season in Cajun quarterback Brian Mitchell. In the Cajuns’ last game, two weeks ago against Southern Mississippi, Mitchell ran for 134 yards, his 11th career 100-yard rushing game, and passed for 343 yards. The Cajun team compiled 575 yards of total offense to set a school record.

“I don’t think you can shut down an offense like that,” cornerback Brett Tucker said. “It’s a real potent offense. Our goal is not necessarily to shut them out and be disappointed if we don’t. We just want to beat them, and any way we can get that we’ll be satisfied.”

Members of the Huskie defensive line have respect for Mitchell as well.

“He’s so quick it’s like trying to catch a candy wrapper in a wind storm,” Cary Caliendo said.

“He’s a great athlete and he’s probably gotten better from last year,” Akis said. “We have to stop not only him but the whole run-and-shoot offense.”

The cold weather may be a hinderance to the Huskies, about half of whom are fighting a bout with the flu.

Yeah, I got it, but we’ll be ready,” Robinson said. “I’d rather play them on a warm dry day. The cold isn’t for me. But it doesn’t matter when you’re fired up to play.”