Football ready for MAC play


Senior wide receiver Christian Blake makes a catch on his way to a touchdown in the Huskies’ 34-28 loss at San Diego State Sept. 30. Blake was named Mid-American Conference player of the week Monday.     

By Ryan Ostry

The football team has many reasons they should be optimistic about it’s season with Mid-American Conference play approaching. The team will face the Kent State University Golden Flashes for homecoming Saturday, and there is no reason it should not dominate this game and be successful in the MAC this season.

The Huskies defense is ranked No. 10 in the country in total yards given up, and they are giving up a measly 21 points a game, keeping in mind they faced Boston College, Nebraska and No. 19 ranked San Diego State.

“We’re playing fast, and we’re playing physical, [and when you do that], good things will always happen,” said sophomore defensive lineman Ben Leroy. “If we keep [playing] with the same intensity [and] the same hustle, we can be very good in the MAC.”

NIU’s most recent evidence is coming off a performance against San Diego State where they had to face a potential Heisman candidate in senior running back Rashaad Penny.

Penny was held to 107 yards in the game, which is much better than his usual 179 rushing yards per game.

“I don’t think there’s any question as to who was the best running back on the field Saturday [at San Diego State],” Head Coach Rod Carey said.

Alluding to Jordan Huff, the redshirt senior running back has been a huge contributing piece to the puzzle for Carey’s offense in 2017.

Huff has been a workhorse so far as he has rushed for 350 yards for a score while averaging an impressive 6.1 yards per game.

His fellow senior wide receiver Christian Blake has also taken on a huge role for NIU, as he has quickly become the No. 1 receiving option this year.

Blake’s role was a must for this team after former receiver Kenny Golladay was selected by the Detroit Lions in the 2017 NFL Draft.

The senior wide out has already caught a career high three touchdowns so far in the young season and is coming off of his best game where he dominated the San Diego State Aztecs defense with 12 catches for 153 yards while also hauling in two touchdowns.

“Christian Blake is playing the most consistently of all receivers,” Carey said. “He’s playing like a senior.”

His work has definitely shown recently, with getting named MAC West Offensive player of the week honors Monday.

The player allowing all this to happen, redshirt sophomore quarterback Daniel Santacaterina, has given the Huskies offense a spark by throwing six touchdowns in three games and going 2-1 in those games.

Santacaterina has been starting because of an elbow injury to redshirt junior quarterback Ryan Graham, but Santacaterina has lifted the spirits of DeKalb’s finest because of his ability to throw down the field and make plays that Graham simply cannot make.

Santacaterina is more of a risk-reward quarterback — he is bound to make more mistakes but gives the Huskies a better chance to win because of his fearlessness and his ability to throw the deep ball.

“Santacaterina is a confident kid who is [really] competitive,” Carey said.

The mix of the dominating defense, Huff bullying the opposing defenses, Blake’s emergence as the number one receiver, and the play of the dual-threat quarterback Santacaterina, the NIU Huskies will continue their success and will be one of the best teams in the conference.

The Huskies kickoff their next game against Kent State 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium.