Football faces instate team in search of first win

By Northern Star Staff

DeKALB | NIU looks to put a one in the win column 2:30 p.m. Saturday against the Western Illinois University Leathernecks.

The two winningest football programs in Illinois have a bit of a history as they have met 39 times, but this will only be the third time they have met since the turn of the century and the first since an NIU victory 41-7 in 2009.

“I think there is a lot of value in playing these interstate games,” Carey said. “It’s good for Illinois football.”

NIU leads the all-time series 21-17-1. Western Illinois enters the game ranked 13th in the Football Championship Series, the lower level of NCAA Division I football, according to the NCAA website.

The Huskies are coming off a difficult 42-28 loss against San Diego State University in their season opener Saturday. With an 0-3 record, the Huskies will attempt to fix issues on both sides of the ball.

The coaches know this week’s game will be a tough matchup against a Western Illinois team sitting at 2-0 after a bye week.

“We are well into our preparations for [Western Illinois University] who is a very good football team,” said Head Coach Rod Carey at a Tuesday press conference.

The Leathernecks are coming off a 34-20 win against Northern Arizona University in which the Western Illinois offense gained 539 yards with 162 of those yards coming on the ground from sophomore running back Steve McShane. “He has good vision, runs with a good pad level and has good speed,” Carey said.

McShane sits at number five in the FCS in rushing yards with 362 over two games.

“You have to play defense,” Carey said. “If you dedicate a whole bunch [of players] to [a scheme] then good coaches figure that out and they do the other [run or pass] and they make you hurt for it so there is a give and take there.”

Carey knows the Huskie defense will have its hands full dealing with McShane.

The emotions should be high for this in-state game as the campuses are around three hours away from each other. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 and radio station WLBK-AM 1360/FM 98.9 and AM 560 for Chicago frequencies.