NIU quarterbacks Matt McIntosh, Anthony Maddie and Drew Hare warm up before the game (photo taken by Gabe Salgado/Chi City Sports)
DE KALB- The Northern Illinois Huskies began both the 2014 season, and the post Jordan Lynch era, Thursday night with a 55-3 victory over Presbyterian College from the FCS. For weeks everyone was wondering who the starting quarterback would be on opening night. NIU head coach Rod Carey certainly had trouble making up his mind as he used all three of his signal callers – junior Matt McIntosh, sophomore Drew Hare, and sophomore Anthony Maddie– against the Blue Hose.
McIntosh started and played the first quarter and went 4-for-5 with 51 yards and a touchdown on NIU’s first offensive possession. He finished the game completing 10-of-14 passes for 87 yards with a passer rating of 147.2, he also ran for 27 yards. Hare went under center for the second quarter and played early into the third.
Maddie came in on NIU’s second third quarter possession and finished the game. Both Hare and Maddie ran well (combined for 102 rushing yards) but could use some improvement in the passing game. Hare completed 8-of-13 pass attempts for 100 yards and a touchdown, but most of his passes were short.
Maddie only converted 1-of-4 and lacked arm strength at times. McIntosh definitely has all of the tools to lead this Huskie team. Maddie and Hare add diversity to the offense but need more development as passers. Overall, McIntosh showed that he could be the full-time starter. But what does coach Carey think?
“My gut right now is that all three played really well”, Carey said at his post-game press conference. He added, “Right now it’s tough to argue against what they did, but you may watch film and see something else.” Translation: It could take another week to decide the future of the quarterback position.
Of course the quarterbacks can’t take all of the credit as the Huskies ground game -per usual- was dominant. Led by running backs Akeem Daniels (the senior had 15 carries for 118 yards), and sophomore Joel Bouagnon (16 carries, 97 yards, 4 touchdowns), you couldn’t tell that senior Cameron Stingley (shoulder injury) was missing from the lineup. The Huskies ran for 424 yards, using 11 ball carriers, and averaged well over five yards per carry as a team.
NIU broke it’s all-time record for most offensive plays in a game with 109, this was also their largest season-opening win since September of 1963 (beat UW-Whitewater 55-7). And they increased their home winning streak to 27 games. The Huskies defense also needs to be recognized.
They held PC without a touchdown (the first time NIU kept an opponent out of the end zone since November of 2012 against UMass), only surrendered 127 total yards, forced two turnovers, and only allowed Presbyterian to get past midfield three times on just 49 plays.
Even if they can’t get the quarterback situation settled, the Huskies at least have a boatload of running backs and a stout defense to lean on. Of course opening the season against a lesser opponent allows your team to do many things. But things won’t be so easy when Northern Illinois travels to Northwestern next week (the beginning of three consecutive road games).
For now the Huskies will enjoy this victory, but things will get more serious -and more complicated- as the season progresses. Follow me on Twitter @GabeSalgado82