Wolfe is all about wins, not records

By Nathan Lindquist

Garrett Wolfe remembers last Nov. 20 quite well.

That day marked NIU’s last game of the 2004 season, and NIU was playing for a bowl-game berth. The junior running back rose to the occasion and ripped off a school-record 325 yards in a 34-16 beating of Eastern Michigan.

In a study of offensive polar opposites, the Huskies potent rushing corps will once again be facing the spread offense employed by Eastern Michigan Saturday afternoon.

But despite past success, Wolfe is more worried about a win than statistics.

“The main thing we want to get accomplished is win another football game,” Wolfe said. “Last year, setting those records was a great accomplishment and I shared that with my teammates. But just getting a win will do enough for me.”

When football fans come out Saturday afternoon for NIU’s Homecoming game, they will be treated to the college versions of the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. On one side will be a home team whose bread and butter is to run the football again and again. On the opposing side will stand a visiting team that runs as a last resort.

During the past decade, NIU coach Joe Novak’s run attack has produced four-straight 1,000-yard rushers, including Wolfe, and this year is no exception. The Huskies are second in the MAC with 212 rushing yards per game and 5.8 per carry.

But running is not the philosophy employed by EMU coach Jeff Genyk. His running game is fourth to last in the MAC in yards with only 110 per game and 3.5 per carry. Rather, the second-year coach utilizes a spread offense that he learned during his seven-year tenure at Northwestern as an assistant.

“Their offense is the same as Northwestern’s,” Novak said. “Northwestern has had a lot of success with the spread and scores a lot of points. Passing is a big part of what they do. We’re going to have to defend that spread again and that’s never been easy for us.”

The running that the Eagles employ is based largely on option plays. The team’s leading rusher also happens to be its senior quarterback Matt Bohnet, who averages 42.8 rushing yards per game. For perspective, NIU backup senior running back A.J. Harris averages 44.6 yards.

Besides their paltry run numbers, the Eagles’ spotty run defense may play right into the Huskies’ hands. In last week’s 30-3 loss to Toledo, EMU surrendered 295 yards on 41 carries. The Eagles are third to last in the conference in run defense with 213.3 yards per game.

“As an offensive lineman, I would enjoy running it 41 times,” said senior center Brian Van Acker. “To get 300 yards rushing would be awesome, too. But it’s all predicated on what the coaches call and how their defense is playing.”

With the memories of his record-setting day last year likely still in their heads, Wolfe wouldn’t necessarily mind the Eagles defense stacking the box against him.

“We’re just going to do the things we’ve always done,” the junior said. “Hopefully we can get those guys to bring nine men into the box so we can let [wide receivers] Sam Hurd and Shatone Powers exploit guys like they’ve been doing all year.”

Considering junior quarterback Phil Horvath is averaging almost 300 yards passing per game, Novak said he will base his offensive approach mainly on what the defense is showing. Despite the fact his squad has won four straight over EMU, Novak said past history does not necessarily help his team.

“I’m glad we’ve won four in a row,” the 10th-year coach said. “I don’t think it’s a certain advantage. What’s happened in the past has happened and doesn’t affect these teams now. If anything it gives them more motivation.”