NIU football looks for redemption in home opener

By Jimmy Johnson

After dropping its season opener 27-10 to Iowa State, NIU football is looking to capture its first victory of the season against North Dakota Saturday night.

While North Dakota football may not be a household name, NIU head coach Jerry Kill and his squad are not underestimating their first home opponent.

“We’re not playing somebody who doesn’t know how to play,” Kill said. “A good football team will come in here and we’ll have to play very well to win.”

Similar to the Huskies, North Dakota is looking to notch its first victory of the 2010 season after being stomped on the road by Idaho, 45-0.

With both teams yearning for victory, Sioux’ head coach Chris Mussman is conscious that this matchup won’t be a cake-walk.

That understanding is especially crystal clear, since they are going against an NIU defense that is looking to show its scheduled opponents, MAC teams and the rest of the college football community that it means business.

“We know it’s going to be a tough day for us offensively,” Mussman said. “What we get in this game we are truly going to earn.”

North Dakota uses pre-snap movement to create confusion, and if the Huskies don’t keep a keen eye on what they’re doing, they may get burned.

“What’s tricky about [the Sioux offense] is their shift and motions,” said NIU defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys. “They do a lot of them, and if you don’t have leverage on the ball after they shift or motion, they’re going to gash you.”

Claeys also wants to see his defensive unit that ranked 30th in the nation last year get back to its old form, which will start by executing on the basic fundamentals.

“We are going to have to tackle better than we did last week,” Claeys said. “If we get lined up and tackle well, we’ll be okay.”

Kill is still quiet on who will start at quarterback for the Huskies, most likely leading to a game time decision between DeMarcus Grady and Chandler Harnish for a second straight week.

Even with an abundance of talent in his backfield, Kill is a firm believer that successful football teams get big plays from their starting quarterback, and he expects that from whoever is under center.

“If you’re going to have a good football team, your quarterback has to make those plays,” Kill said. “So we have to continue to improve in that position whether it’s DeMarcus or whoever that may be.”