Pettibone gives thoughts on Huskie sideline move

By Dan Moran

The NIU Huskies won Saturday. They beat the Southwest Missouri State Bears 27-21 and moved their record to 3-2-1.

Keep that in mind when reading about Monday’s weekly Huskie Club luncheon because head coach Jerry Pettibone spent most of his time there answering the types of questions associated with something less than a win.

Before he even spoke about the game, Pettibone was asked to explain why his team lined up on the east sideline instead of the customary west side.

“First of all, as a football coach at Northern, I have the best interests of our athletes at heart. I don’t make snap decisions until I’ve thought it out,” Pettibone said. “I’ve thought about moving to the other side before this year. I asked Doctor Brigham about the middle of last season, but we couldn’t do it because of various administrative problems.”

Pettibone said the “administrative problems” referred to included “rewiring headsets” and placement of support personnel. When the move became reality Saturday, Pettibone said he “felt the best atmosphere I’ve felt here in three years.

“It just feels better to look at that (west) side. At big points in the game we were facing the crowd, and they really got into it. I could tell it had an impact on our team.”

Speculation persists that Pettibone made the move due to verbal abuse coming from the west stands. When told Monday of taunts directed at SMSU players, Pettibone said, “Does that tell you something?

“I make decisions on what affects our players—positively or negatively. They’re the people most affected, and I’m most concerned with our players,” said Pettibone who added, if the move “becomes a negative thing, we’ll move them back. It’s our stadium.”

When finally given the chance, Pettibone presented his weekly Huskie statistics which once again featured some national rankings. With 15 interceptions in six games, the Huskies rank first in the nation in team interceptions. Huskies Mike Higgins and Rufus Taylor are tied for 30th with three pickoffs each.

Although he only returned one punt for nine yards, Rodney Taylor moved from 14th to ninth among the nation’s punt returners. As a team, NIU ranks eighth in rushing offense with 288.8 yards per game and 27th in total offense with 399.7 ypg. The Huskies also place 30th among the 105 Division I-A teams in scoring average with 30.7 points per game.