Hare flashes potential for solid career


Redshirt sophomore Drew Hare plays in the 2014 Marathon MAC Championship game against the Bowling Green Falcons on Dec. 5 in Detroit. Hare is the third NIU quarterback to win the MAC Championship in the past four seasons.

By Frank Gogola

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Drew Hare has as many MAC Championship game victories as former greats Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch. Let that sink in for a minute.

Hare picked up his first postseason win in his first attempt, leading the Huskies (11-2) to a 51-17 victory Friday over the Bowling Green Falcons (7-6) in the MAC Championship game. Harnish and Lynch each went 1-1 in MAC title games while Harnish went 2-2 and Lynch went 0-2 in bowl games.

The scary thing: Hare still has two more seasons of eligibility to improve. The future looks bright for the Huskies’ offense with Hare at the helm. That would have been saying a lot even a few months ago after two losses in three weeks.

Following in the shoes of Lynch, a Heisman Trophy finalist, and having to occasionally split time at quarterback with redshirt sophomore Anthony Maddie has to be tough. But, head coach Rod Carey said Hare’s “poise” and “attitude” in being himself has been what’s stood out in the first-year starter being successful.

“He never once tried to be anybody but Drew,” Carey said. “And that’s what he had to do to be successful. And he’s kept getting better a little bit at a time. And sometimes I wasn’t happy with him, sometimes he wasn’t happy with me. But, you know what, it’s coming, and you saw it [Friday]. So, I’m really happy for him along with the rest of the players.”

While Hare always gives credit to his wide receivers, running backs, tight ends and especially his offensive line, he has been instrumental in leading the NIU offense. He never has had a truly awful game that made me question why the coaching staff went with him.

In 13 games this season, Hare completed 59.9 percent (179-299) of his passes for 2,097 yards with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 17 to 2. Showing his dual-threat ability, he’s rushed 145 times for 850 yards and eight touchdowns — all of which rank second on the team.

While the offense will lose guys like wide receiver Da’Ron Brown, tight end Luke Eakes, offensive linemen Tyler Loos, Tyler Pitt and Ryan Brown, fullback Rob Sterling and tailbacks Akeem Daniels and Cameron Stingily to graduation, the Huskies have built up depth and shouldn’t see a significant drop-off offensively. In fact, they may be more of a passing team than a running team based solely on returning personnel.

And for anybody who questions or doubts Hare’s ability to be a force at quarterback as opposed to being a game manager, he’s led the Huskies to seven-straight wins, showing his playmaking ability while improving along the way and putting together his best game on the big stage.

Friday, Hare was named MAC Championship game’s Most Valuable Player. He completed 29 passes on 49 attempts — both career highs — for 218 yards and two touchdowns while being intercepted once — neither Harnish nor Lynch completed 29 passes or more passes in one game. On the ground, he rushed for 60 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries.

With bowl prep practice and the Boca Raton Bowl 5 p.m. Dec. 23 against the Marshall Thundering Herd still to come, Hare has time this year to continue to improve his game and add to his stats.

With what Hare — and the rest of the Huskies — have accomplished in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season, Hare appears to have a bright career with the Huskies, but he’ll still need to make strides if he hopes to cement his name with those of Harnish and Lynch.