Huskies swear by the ‘Bone

By Jesse Rogers

Although the Huskie football team must change its strategy against each new opponent, one thing that stays the same is the Huskie wishbone attack.

NIU has used the wishbone offense for four years and has proven it can be a deadly offensive attack. The Huskies gained over 370 yards on the ground just last Saturday against Big Eight foe Kansas State.

Head football coach Jerry Pettibone feels the wishbone attack is one of the best offensive schemes in football.

“I’ve always believed that the wishbone was a great offense,” Pettibone said. “It creates a lot of advantages. I think it’s the most positive yardage offense that has ever been devised.”

The wishbone has many options of attack and having a capable quarterback is essential to its success. The quarterback must first decide to hand-off the ball to his fullback or keep it. If he keeps it, he then must decide whether to pitch it to his half-back or run it himself. If he decides to keep it himself, he must decide when to turn upfield. The quarterback must not only be athletic but he must be intelligent as well.

Pettibone feels he has the capable quarterback in Stacey Robinson.

“Stacey has done a great job with the wishbone,” Pettibone stated. “Against Kansas State he had 31 opportunities to read the option play…and he made correct decisions 29 of 31 times.”

Robinson feels he has done an adequate job running the wishbone but says he can definitely improve.

“Reading the fullback play is the hardest thing to do in the wishbone,” Robinson said. “Also, knowing when to turn upfield and when to pitch the ball is very difficult.”

So why do the Huskies run the wishbone so well?

In one word, Practice.

From the very beginning of the season all aspects of the wishbone are practiced day in and day out.

Quarterback-fullback coach Jay Schaake says timing is essential in running the ‘bone.

“We start from the very beginning of practice and we go over just the fullbacks and quarterbacks together,” Schakke said. “We start through and mesh, and ride, and read, and basically we do one form of that the rest of the two-and-a-half hour practice.”

Although the wishbone is designed to spread the offensive attack around, one of the keys is to gain yardage up the middle. This will open up other facets of the offense including the passing game.

“What we feel like we have to go do in every ballgame is establish the running game of the fullback,” Schakke explains. “We have to create a threat with the inside running of the fullback. Once that happens defenses are going to focus on him which allows for the outside things to happen.”

So along with having a capable quarterback in the wishbone, it pays to have a fullback that can run with the ball. The Huskies have three led by sophmore sensation Adam Dach who gained over 900 yards last year as a freshman.

Although Dach has had a slow start statistic wise, Pettibone and Schakke are not concerned. Schakke said it’s only important that the fullback position gains yards not any one fullback. Pettibone believes Dach’s slow start can be attributed to defenses keying on the 6-0, 210-pound fullback.

The wishbone will be on the attack again this Saturday as the Huskies face intrastate rival Western Illinois at 6:35 p.m. at Huskie Stadium.