NIU looks to solve Chippewas

By Andrew Singer

Records can be deceiving. Or so NIU will find out if they decide to take it easy on Central Michigan this Saturday.

Winners of three of the last four MAC Championship games, CMU (2-5, 0-3 MAC) is experiencing an uncharacteristically poor year. Against NIU (5-2, 3-0 MAC) though, it has been a while since the Chippewas had an off-year. Winners of the teams last three meetings, CMU also owns a four game edge in the all-time series (24-20-1).

“Our seniors have not beaten Central [Michigan] in the last three meetings,” said NIU head coach Jerry Kill. “We should be focused. We have no other reason for anything other than that. We’ve played the other side, and now we’re on our side, and we need to take care of business.”

In addition to that, Kill doesn’t believe the Chippewas’ record indicates how well they’ve played in 2010.

“It’s almost like they haven’t been able to buy a break,” Kill said. “Defensively, they’re a football team that’s very much the same defense that played very strong in our conference a year ago. Offensively, the quarterback is throwing the ball around. It’s a deal where you take a point or two or a break here or there.”

Changes abounds for CMU in 2010 with first year head coach Dan Enos and sophomore quarterback Ryan Radcliff both enjoying their first year as faces of the program. Even with the changes, Kill still holds the Chippewas’ current team in high regard.

“Anytime you have a new quarterback and a new head coach, you’re going to be different,” Kill said. “There’s some similarities on offense and then there’s some differences, but I think Dan [Enos] is putting his stamp on what wants to be and what he feels they need to be with the talent that he has right now.”

Contrasting the surprisingly poor play of CMU, is the Huskies’ Chandler Harnish who has surprised many with his play thus far in 2010, garnering two MAC West Offensive Player of the Week awards this year.

“I think the only surprise with Chandler is that we didn’t even know that we’d have him able to play,” Kill said. “Even through spring ball, I didn’t know if he’d be able to play because of his knee injury. It’s a surprise to me with how he’s doing with the injury that he had and how he’s handled it.”

In Kill’s third year as head coach, people are starting to see the entire NIU team buying into his philosophy. NIU fullback Kyle Skarb said he believes, though, that the recent success should be attributed more to the mutual trust that has developed between player and coach.

“I don’t think it’s that, it’s more of having trust in one another,” Skarb said. “At the beginning of the season, that’s kind of what we lacked was trust in one another. Trusting that that block is going to be there, and I think that’s what Coach Kill is trying to focus on.”

After this weekend, the Huskies will be on the road for three out of their final four games. Kill preached earlier this year that his team had to play well at home to have a chance to get to a MAC Championship game.

“We play five games at home,” Kill said. “You have to take care of your home turf. You do that, that’s five W’s if you can do it. Then, you have to find a way to steal two or three on the road, and the rest you see what happens.”