Huskies battling in Philadelphia

By Thom Gippert

Through six games, records have not always been a good indicator of the Huskie football team’s opponents.

Earlier this year, NIU defeated a 1-4 Southern Illinois squad in a tough battle and two weeks ago the Huskies were beaten by a 1-3-1 Louisiana Tech team. Those two teams’ records were not indicative of how good those teams really were.

This Saturday NIU (5-2) will travel to Philadelphia to take on the 0-7 Temple Owls in Veterans Stadium with kickoff at 1 p.m. (EDT).

Temple has a deceiving 0-7 record this season. The Owls have already faced Western Michigan, Syracuse, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Houston, Pittsburgh and Boston College, all of whom have winning records.

“Temple is a good football team even though they’re 0-7. You really have to look at the people they’ve played, three of the seven are in the Top 20,” said NIU head coach Jerry Pettibone.

The Owls have been a struggling team this year under first-year head coach Jerry Berndt. Temple has only been able to score 54 points the entire season. The defense has given up 266 points.

The one bright spot for Temple has been the running of tailback Ventres Stevenson. The 6-0, 190-pound senior has rushed for 669 yards this year and ran for 172 yards in the Owls last game two weeks ago against Boston College.

The Temple offense features a balanced attack with more emphasis on the run.

“They’re a little heavy on the run. They run the I-formation with one back and they’ll run the football,” Pettibone said.

Senior quarterback Victor Lay is having a decent year as well. Lay has thrown for 650 yards on 71 completions but has yet to throw for a touchdown.

On defense, inside linebacker Lorenzo Square leads the Owls with 78 tackles. As a whole, however, the defense gives up an average of 417 yards per game.

With the bad comes the good for at least one player on Temple.

Owl punter Ed Liberati has booted the ball away an incredible 47 times this season for an average of 39 yards.

NIU will be making its first trip to the East since 1971 when the Huskies played Boston College. This will also be the first meeting between NIU and Temple.

The Huskies are coming off an impressive 42-24 win over UNLV last week.

NIU quarterback Stacy Robinson enters the game as America’s number-one rushing QB among Division I-A teams—averaging 115 yards per game. Robinson is also listed as the 13th leading rusher in the nation.

Senior linebacker Ron Delisi leads the Huskie defense with 76 tackles. Senior defensive back Brett Tucker is the second leading tackler with 60.

“I think they’ll be very confident coming in against us. Their offensive system is one that we haven’t faced this year and their defensive scheme (four-four) is one we haven’t seen in some time,” Berndt said.

Pettibone said he is expecting a physical game because of Temple’s size on the offensive and defensive lines. Pettibone also said he was very pleased with last week’s effort by NIU’s defense.

“I think we played excellent on defense. We had only two breakdowns on 55 snaps. We did a better job of tackling and breaking to the ball,” Pettibone said.

Temple had last week off to prepare for the Huskies and will face the Georgia Bulldogs next week.