Hurd snags Player of the Week

By Sean Ostruszka

When you snag the second-most receiving yards in MAC history you’re almost a lock to be MAC Player of the Week.

With his 12 receptions for an NIU-record 266 yards, receiver Sam Hurd took home his first MAC West Offensive Player of the Week of the season.

The 266 yards were just 31 yards behind the all-time MAC record of 297 set by Ball State’s Brian Oliver in 1993 against Toledo.

Hurd also hauled in three touchdowns.

Defensive end Craig Rusch received an honorable mention for his performance in the win over Central Michigan.

The freshman had a fumble forced and recovered to go along with his seven tackles (three for losses), and two sacks.

Bitten hard

NIU’s win over CMU may have been one of the greatest in NIU coach Joe Novak’s career, but it wasn’t without consequences.

The most notable loss was starting quarterback Phil Horvath.

But while most of the focus was on Horvath’s arm, a few other key players left Michigan a little banged up.

Running back A.J. Harris reaggravated an injury to his shoulder and is listed as questionable for the Nov. 16 game at Toledo.

Novak said starting running back Garrett Wolfe, who hasn’t practiced since suffering a knee injury against Eastern Michigan on Oct. 15, won’t play against Toledo.

On the other side of the ball, defensive linemen Quince Holman and Zack Holycross both are listed as day-to-day, but are not expected to miss a lot of time, Novak said.

One key thing for the Huskies is they have a few extra days to heal before the game against Toledo, Novak said.

“I think it’s critical,” he said. “It gives us a little bit longer to recover. We need to get those guys healthy and back on the field for our next game.”

Young gun

Before the season began, four quarterbacks were fighting for the starting spot.

Among them was Dan Nicholson.

The redshirt freshman was in the running until an injury sidelined him for two weeks and Horvath eventually won the job.

But after Horvath went down to a season-ending arm injury, Nicholson got another shot.

The Chicago native completed 19 of 27 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns.

While many thought Horvath going down signaled the end of the Huskies’ season, Novak was confident in his backup.

“Danny is very talented,” Novak said. “If it wasn’t for that injury in training camp he probably would have challenged more [for the starting spot]. But he really is a remarkable kid.”

Fresh face

Sacks were a problem that plagued the NIU defense through much of the first half of this season.

But it looks like the Huskies have found the answer in Rusch.

The freshman from Hilbert, Wis. has been wreaking havoc in opposing backfields ever since his first start against Eastern Michigan.

In that game he had four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. He hasn’t slowed down since.

Rusch is tied for the team lead with five sacks and leads the team with three forced fumbles despite playing in only five games.

“He’s a heck of a football player,” Novak said.

With his performance thus far, Rusch will more than likely be seeing more playing time, Novak said.

Junior Ken West and freshman Larry English are the starters, but Novak figures to “roll” them with Rusch in order to get all three playing time.