NIU football team prepares for MAC opener


NIU running back Chad Spann ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns against Akron last season.

By Chris Dertz

And with this, the real season begins.

After taking down Minnesota, NIU football will play its fourth game on the road, travelling to Akron, Ohio to open up its MAC slate against the Zips.

The Huskies (2-2) are coming off their best game of the season, one in which senior running back Chad Spann rushed for 223 yards. Akron (0-4) has played a similar non-conference schedule to NIU, facing three BCS programs in Syracuse, Kentucky and Indiana.

The Huskies have beaten two such BCS programs each of the past two seasons, but head coach Jerry Kill is trying to keep his team focused on the game at hand.

“I think it’s one of those things where our kids understand after we beat Purdue and then [lost to] Idaho,” Kill said. “I watched our team react at Minnesota, and they were excited, but they also knew that we have next week. We talked so much in the offseason about our schedule and us being on the road so much earlier that we prepared for where we’re at and we talked about how important the Akron game is.”

The game is very important and holds strong implications for NIU, which was picked to win the MAC West before the season. The Huskies would rather start 1-0 in MAC play before coming home to face Temple the week after.

Kill’s players aren’t looking ahead at Temple, though.

“We just practice the same way week in and week out,” said NIU fullback Connor Flahive. “He just does a great job keeping our blinders on so we’re not comparing ourselves to anyone.”

In MAC games, NIU leads the all-time series against Akron 3-2. The Huskies will look to take that number to four, as Kill and his staff are confident that the team learned what they needed to before MAC play.

Kill did express a worry about going on another long road trip for a night game for the third straight week.

When the team steps on the field, though, the team will be all business. As Kill says, the real season will start.

“I’ve probably spent more time on [Akron] than anybody,” Kill said. “They’ve had a difficult schedule very similar to us. Pretty much in the MAC you’re going to play somebody that can beat you so you have to play well.”