5 minutes with Quarterback Chandler Harnish

By Northern Star Staff

When NIU travels to Minnesota this Saturday, it marks a return to the place where Huskie quarterback Chandler Harnish made his impressive debut.

Harnish took some time to talk to the Northern Star about making the trip back up to Minneapolis, how the Huskie offense is progressing and NIU’s unfinished business with the Golden Gophers.

Northern Star: Against Illinois, it seemed like the offense really hit a stride moving the ball. What are you seeing out of the offensive unit?

Chandler Harnish: I think one thing we’re doing well is we’re making big plays, but we’re having a little bit of trouble sustaining drives. We’re getting 30 and 40-yard plays, but we need to get the six, seven and eight yard runs and short passes.

We’ve been doing a pretty good job, but we need to just keep staying consistent and not have a couple quarters where we kind of slow it down. If we can play a complete game I think we’ll be good.

NS: You’ve been running the ball really effectively this year. Coach [Jerry] Kill said you’ve transformed into a great runner, what changed from last year to this year?

CH: Going through the situation I did of being injured kind of put a new perspective on the game of football for me.

It’s one of those things where I realized that the game can come and go so quickly, so I really wanted to improve and I put in the necessary work and [quarterback coach Jim Zebrowski] has really helped me and the whole group throughout the offseason on really developing quarterbacks. I feel as confident as ever and the coaches have put me in good situations to be out there playing.

NS: What’s this whole trip from being injured, to being the backup and now playing as well as you ever have been like?

CH: The most crazy rollercoaster ride, emotionally, that I’ve been through in the game of football. I’m not going to lie, it was tough during two-a-days, it really was. Being the second, sometimes third-string quarterback… it was not easy being a two-year starter.

It gave me a new perspective on the game of football, I think I really grew up throughout those few weeks. I’ve matured as a person and as a player, and I’ve really tried to take advantage of the opportunity I’ve been given. I wasn’t mad at the coaches or anything, I was mad at myself – my own performance. Sometimes I asked why, but the one thing I tried to do was keep a positive attitude.

NS: How good did it feel to finally connect with Landon Cox?

CH: It felt good, it felt like the Ohio game last year where he had a lot of big plays for us. He needs to make a lot of plays for us, because he’s a great player.

He’s got a big body and he’s always on the field, and he deserves to get the ball. To get him the ball, it’s just one of those extra pluses.

NS: You had a coming out party in 2008 against Minnesota, why were you able to have so much success in that game?

CH: It’s one of those situations where my mind was kind of in a whirlwind because I was just a redshirt freshman. I really just wasn’t sure what to expect. I expected to start, but to come out there and play pretty well as an offensive unit- we didn’t run the ball very well that game, I remember- I think we surprised them. I don’t know if they were ready for our passing attack, and I don’t know if they gave us the respect that was due. For us to come out like that was a definite positive for a lot of the young guys like myself, Nathan Palmer.

NS: Nathan Palmer said you guys maybe feel like you’ve got some unfinished business up there.

CH: We definitely do. We had a great chance to win the game. Minnesota made some plays late, they took a long drive late and scored a touchdown. We feel like we’re going in there to win the game. We don’t back down to anybody. Obviously we’re always the underdog, but we like that role because the pressure’s not on us, it’s on them. We’ve been in the situation before.