‘Doghouse’ days near end

By Thom Gippert

Riding a seven-game winning streak at home was long in coming for the 16 seniors who will end their NIU career Saturday at Huskie Stadium.

Gone are the days of eight-game losing streaks and crowds that equaled the size of the team. This Saturday the Huskies will try to win their season finale at home, which would be 11 wins out of the last 12 games in “The Doghouse”.

Some seniors will continue their football careers by trying out with professional teams, yet all will leave with fond memories of one special occasion at the stadium.

“Last week’s win, just the way we won it made it so special,” said senior defensive back Brett Tucker.

Not only was last week’s 23-20 win over Southwestern Louisiana a thriller for fans, but the game was singled out by many seniors as their fondest moment at the stadium.

On Saturday, all of the seniors will be recognized before kickoff for their efforts at NIU, but for some, the pageantry is truly secondary.

“I would just like to see a win, we come here to win, that’s all we want. I really don’t care about the recognition,” said senior linebacker James Matlock.

The Huskies will lose five starters to graduation, four on defense and one on offense. Defensive tackle Phil Bucaro, co-captain linebacker Ron Delisi, defensive tackle Ted Hennings and Tucker will be leaving the defense. Co-captain Joe Gucwa will be the lone offensive starter departing.

Delisi will end his home Huskie career with over 400 tackles, which places him fourth on the all-time tackling list. Nicknamed “The Hitman”, Delisi has a career total of 409 tackles heading into the game this week against Toledo and has 105 for the year, which puts him over 100 tackles for the last three years.

As a whole on defense, the Huskies will lose 337 combined tackles from the seniors.

Other seniors who have contributed to the Huskie program on defense are outside linebacker Patrick Bryant, defensive tackle Rodney Akis, inside linebacker Matt Kentner and inside linebacker Emil Moretti.

Players on offense also graduating are tackle Greg Heidel, split end Chris Korfist, running back Chris Norman, tackle Robbie Russell and tight end Arney Silvestri. Punter/placekicker Eric Nelson will also boot his last ball during the game at the stadium on Saturday.

This group had their share of ups and downs as Huskies, and even though the team is on the rise, the lean days are also remembered.

“This group has been through the 0-8 start (1986) when we played the 14th toughest schedule in the nation. They had to line-up against West Virginia, Wisconsin, Iowa and Miami, Fl. They laid the foundation and provided the leadership for the success we know now,” NIU head coach Jerry Pettibone said of “The Class of 1989”.

Along with a win Saturday, there are other things that would make the day special for the departing players.

“I really want to see a packed house,” said Hennings, who has 35 tackles this year despite battling knee problems.

This weekend’s contest begins at 1:00 p.m. against the Rockets of Toledo.