MAC squad to face Huskie pack

By Thom Gippert

The Huskies play host to a somewhat underrated Toledo squad Saturday in the season’s home finale at Huskie Stadium.

Toledo comes into the 1 p.m. game with a 5-4 record and are in the hunt for a share of the Mid-American Conference title.

The Rockets and NIU (7-2) are coming off last-second wins from last Saturday. The Huskies defeated Southwestern Louisiana 23-20 as time expired. Toledo squeaked out a win in the final moments as it upended Western Michigan 19-18.

NIU will try to move its home winning streak to eight games, which would give the Huskies 12 wins out of the last 13 games at the stadium. Toledo, however, comes into the game with the series momentum. The Rockets rallied to win last season’s contest 33-20 at the Glass Bowl in Toledo.

The Rockets will feature a balanced offensive attack that is centered around the I-formation. Running back Wayne Goodman, a 6-2, 197-pound senior, will be the workhorse for the Rockets ground attack.

The quarterback position is a little unsettled. Junior Mark Melfi has been the starter throughout the season, but an injury in the Kent State game two weeks ago produced an opportunity for redshirt-freshman Kevin Meger to display his ability. Meger did not start last week’s game, but he entered in the second half and threw the winning touchdown pass against Western Michigan.

Defensively for the Rockets, they will face the Huskies with a veteran unit that faced the wishbone in the first game of the season against Ohio University. The Rockets will try to stop the Huskies with a 4-3 Stunt defense that relys on a total team effort

Toledo head coach Dan Simrell said he is impressed with what he has seen of the Huskies on film and he thinks stability has been the key for the Huskies success.

“There are a very, very good football team.” Simrell said. “I think Jerry (Pettibone) has done a very good job at Northern. They’re an explosive team and that is a credit to Jerry because of the stability he has given the program.”

NIU is led offensively by quarterback Stacey Robinson, who is complemented by power fullback Adam Dach. Robinson, a junior out of Danville, enters Saturday’s game as the leading rushing quarterback in the country and is tied for 15th on the overall rushing list in the nation averaging 114 yards per game.

The Huskie offense as a unit ranks No. 7 in the nation in team rushing (308 yards per game). The offense is also averaging 380 yards per game in total offense which ranks 38th in the country.

Ron Delisi, the senior linebacker from Gordon Tech High School, leads the NIU defense in tackles with 105. Fellow senior Brett Tucker is the second leading tackler with 74 from his cornerback position.

The Huskies will enter the game Saturday in relatively good physical condition as they escaped the Southwestern Louisiana game in good shape.

NIU head coach Jerry Pettibone realizes this game means a lot to the Rockets, even though it is a non-conference game.

“They’re playing real well and they’ve got a lot to play for. It’s going to be a great game. I’m expecting a tough, physical game,” Pettibone said.

The fifth year Huskie leader is hoping for a big send-off in the last home game of the season.

“We’re a quality football team having a great season. This is Northern’s team, the students’ team and this is the best football team Northern’s ever had,” Pettibone said.

Saturday will mark the last game at the “Doghouse” for 16 seniors whose eligibilty terminates at the completion of the season.

NIU will close out its schedule next week when the Huskies travel to the University of Cincinnati.