A roller coaster season for NIU’s football team

By Jarrod Rice

This was supposed to be “the season” for the NIU football team, but it wasn’t. Not to say that’s a bad thing.

This was supposed to be the season that the wheels fell off of the Huskies’ rise to football power, but it wasn’t.

When you take a step back and look at what the Huskies had coming into this season and what they had lost, it’s hard to believe they’re in the position they are.

This season was a roller coaster ride with peaks and valleys that let Huskie fans feel the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. And from the get-go, things looked pretty bleak in Huskie Country.

The first of what should have been many season-ending blows dates way back to December of last year when our great quarterback Josh Haldi took his last snap as a Huskie and left the team with a four-way quarterback controversy.

Luckily we had junior Phil Horvath to take the job and do more than anyone ever imagined, but we’ll get to him later.

The next sign of apocalypse came when the already young and weak defense lost perhaps its best player in linebacker Javan Lee.

These things helped lead to what was a disappointing 1-3 start capped off by a heartbreaking overtime loss Sept. 24 to Akron, which we will once again get to later.

At this point neither fans or the players themselves had much reason to be optimistic, but that was before Horvath decided to be one of the best quarterbacks in the nation – at least statistically.

Since this was supposed to be “the season,” you knew it wouldn’t last – and it didn’t.

As fate would have it, Horvath suffered a broken arm just weeks after star running back Garrett Wolfe went down with a knee injury. But at least we have Wolfe back. Horvath’s injury was season-ending, leaving the Huskies with the opening day third-stringer Dan Nicholson to start. Who?

The rare home loss to Ball State dropped the Huskies record to 4-4 and “the season” had come to fruition, right?

Wrong. Back-to-back road victories over Central Michigan and Toledo – finally – and a win over Western Michigan turned a lost season into NIU’s first ever MAC championship game against none other than Akron.

So what kept this season from being a total disaster? Was it coaching? Was it the third-string quarterback? The triumphant return of Wolfe? Maybe it was just fate.

Whatever it was, it turned what should have been a disaster season into what could end up as one of the most magical in NIU history.

And when we look back at what was “the season,” it will be a good thing.