If games are any guide, NIU has 33% chance

By Ben Gross

What will arguably be the biggest football game in NIU’s history at the “Big House” against Michigan this weekend may rely on the foot of NIU kicker Chris Nendick – at least according to EA Sports’ “NCAA Football 2006” simulation.

NIU won one of three simulated games: lost a close first game 35-38, lost the second game 21-28, and squeezed out a win in the third simulated game, 31-28.

The two games separated by three points were on the foot of Nendick.

In the winning game, Nendick made a 36-yard field goal. In the game NIU lost by three points, Nendick missed his only field goal attempt.

In order to make the simulated game as close to Saturday’s real deal, linebacker Javan Lee and wide receiver Marcus Perez, who will both sit out the 2005 season, were left off the NIU roster.

In all three games NIU came out scoring first and was able to lead or tie with Michigan going into the half.

The third quarter was Michigan’s time to shine. The Wolverines outscored the Huskies 38-3 in all the third quarters combined.

The Huskies, on the other hand, liked to rally from behind in the fourth quarter.

NIU outscored the Big Ten powerhouse 35-14 in the three simulated games during the fourth quarter.

Phil Horvath, NIU’s quarterback, averaged 211 passing yards in the three games.

The game that NIU took from Michigan was actually the worst showing by the Huskies’ offense. In the winning game NIU’s offense only produced 303 total yards, while Michigan had 438 yards.

The difference in earning a “W” verses an “L” was penalties and Michigan’s star running back, Mike Hart.

NIU only had 7 penalties for a total of 40 yards, while Michigan committed 15 penalties for a total of 132 yards in the Huskies’ victory.

NIU’s defense was the shining gem of the winning game. The defense kept Hart to only 95 yards and 1 touchdown on 17 carries. In the other two games the powerful “Big House” running back ran for over 150 yards and had 2 touchdowns in both games.

While Garrett Wolfe ran for 131 yards on 29 attempts in the NIU win, wide receiver Shatone Powers was the only player to score a rushing touchdown.

Powers ran for a four-yard touchdown to end the second half, Putting NIU up 21-14 at half time.

Sam Hurd, however, was the real hero of the game. Hurd received all three passing touchdowns from Naperville native Horvath, including the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.

In general interest to see what EA Sports predicted for the Huskies’ season if they were to beat the Wolverines, we left the simulation to run the whole season out. The sim also predicted that the Huskies would go 7-4 in the regular season.

The four losses came against Northwestern (35-13), Akron (24-17), Toledo (21-0) and Western Michigan (31-39).

An interesting side note from the simulated season: the video game predicts that MAC quarterback Omar Jacobs of Bowling Green will win the Heisman Trophy.

So, NIU football coaches, take note: In the first half score early, take a lead into the locker room and give one heck of a halftime speech.

In that second half come out energized to keep Michigan from scoring, light up the fourth quarter with offensive fireworks, and stop Hart at all costs.

Oh, and also don’t forget to tell Nendick he’ll be riding the roof of the team bus home if he doesn’t make that kick.