Football schedule more balanced but challenges still await Huskies

By Brian Wiencek

Last year NIU had the fourth toughest football schedule in the nation and one of the most inexperienced teams in Division I.

However, things have changed a bit this year. The Huskies have earned more experience on the playing field and the schedule is, well…

“…a little bit more balanced out than it was last year,” coach Charlie Sadler said.

Just a little bit? Last year’s NIU schedule included three Top-20 teams and teams from the SEC, Big Ten and Big Eight, all of which were on the road.

The 1992 schedule is less notable than 1991’s, but there are still some heavy obstacles to climb over. The first two of which are the Big Ten’s Illinois and Wisconsin, both on the road.

Two more challenges include the major independent teams of Army and Southern Mississippi.

NIU’s schedule does include three Division I-AA teams, but Sadler feels that those teams don’t differ from the Division I-A teams.

“Quite honestly, every game is a game in itself,” the second-year coach said, “and whoever it is we’re playing, we have to be totally prepared.

“I don’t think that it makes much difference in the fact that we are playing those teams.”

And there isn’t much difference. They certainly aren’t in the ‘cupcake’ category. Liberty and Middle Tennessee State are ranked Nos. 13 and 14, respectively, in the Division I-AA Top 25, and Illinois State has provided a great rivalry that dates all the way back to 1906.

Two schools included in NIU’s 1992 repertoire are run by former NFL coaches. Arkansas State head coach Ray Perkins owns a resume that includes jobs with the New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the University of Alabama. Liberty head coach Sam Rutigliano once was at the helm of the Cleveland Browns.

“I think that the schedule is very challenging, obviously, having the likes of Illinois and Wisconsin,” Sadler said, “and also teams like Southern Mississippi, who normally has excellent talent, along with Army and teams of that nature.

“I think our schedule is one of which gives us a much more competitive opportunity than maybe what last year’s schedule did. I think it’s a very good schedule.”