NIU football looks for momentum


Landon Cox enters the final regular season game Friday with 28 catches for 362 yards and three touchdowns.

By Chris Dertz

With the MAC West title and a trip to the MAC Championship game already clinched, NIU head coach Jerry Kill could be forgiven for thinking his team might have a letdown when the Huskies take on Eastern Michigan at 11 a.m. Friday morning.

Kill has no such worries, and doesn’t plan to rest any of his regular starters, either.

“Nope, we’re not pro football,” Kill said. “We have a tremendous amount to play for right now. You want to go in with momentum; you want to be playing your best football. If our aspirations are to be a really good program, we’ve got to go each week and take care of business.”

The Huskies (9-2 overall, 7-0 MAC) will face an Eagles’ (2-9, 2-5) team that has not played well this season, allowing opponents to out-score it 456-225 on the season.

EMU will have trouble with NIU tailback Chad Spann, who is tied with Auburn quarterback Cam Newton for eighth in the nation in scoring, averaging 9.82 points per game.

Kill is trying to make sure his team knows they can’t just come out and roll over EMU. Preaching the Eagles’ physical style of play, Kill has made sure his players know the importance of momentum going into the MAC Championship.

“All season, we’ve got a goal in mind, and that was to win the MAC,” said wide receiver Landon Cox. “We’ve been through this together, on this road, and we just want to finish it out on a good note.”

For Cox, as well as the rest of NIU’s fourth-year players, the chance to end the regular season 10-2 after going 2-10 in 2007 has been symbolic of the program’s turnaround under Kill.

“Coach [Kill] talks to us about momentum, and I think everyone as competitors wants to go out and play well,” said redshirt junior offensive lineman Keith Otis. “Also, the turnaround from 2-10 to 10-2 is a great thing for those seniors.”

NIU will first have to take care of business against an Eagles’ team that will be giving NIU their best shot.

But Otis speaks for the whole team in saying that the culture of winning that this team has built around itself has been infectious.

“The old saying goes ‘winning cures all,'” Otis said. “The funeral recession has passed. Now we’re going to the bridal shower and trying to have some fun.”