Chicago Colleges: Chandler Harnish

NIU QB Lynch set to make job his own

August, 31, 2012
Northern Illinois junior Jordan Lynch isn’t the same quarterback as Chandler Harnish.

Lynch understands that. Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren does too. They just hope the Huskies’ fans are willing to accept that as well.

“As far as comparisons to Chandler, I don’t that’s fair to get compared to a guy like that,” Doeren said. “I think he’ll write his own script the next few years and then we’ll compare him.”

[+] EnlargeJordan Lynch
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireNIU quarterback Jordan Lynch picked up some valuable experience in the Go Bowl.
Lynch’s script will begin Saturday when he replaces Harnish, one of Northern Illinois’ most storied quarterbacks and now an Indianapolis Colts quarterback, when the Huskies face Iowa in their season opener at Soldier Field.

“I’m not going to go out looking to break Chandler’s records,” said Lynch, who is 6-foot and 216 pounds. “I am just going to out go out there and play.”

Lynch may be making his starting debut, but he’s been slowly brought along the last few season to be ready for this day. He saw action in nine games as a redshirt freshman, throwing for a touchdown and rushing for three more. Last season, got more playing time and was 15-of-20 passing for 166 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions while rushing for 246 yards and three touchdowns.

Lynch was given his biggest taste of what it’d be like to be the starting quarterback when Harnish was sidelined with an injury for a drive during Northern Illinois’ bowl game with Arkansas State. In seven plays, he led the Huskies to a touchdown, giving them a 14-13 lead. He was 3-of-3 passing for 69 yards and rushed for three yards and a touchdown on the drive.

“When an opportunity came in the bowl game, he took advantage of it,” Doeren said. “He didn’t flinch at all. I think that’s what excited us the most.”

Doeren believes playing at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago for longtime coach Frank Lenti has helped Lynch be prepared for those big moments. The Caravan reached the state semifinals twice behind Lynch.

“He’s a guy’s guy,” Doeren. “He’s tough. He’s not a pretty-boy-type guy. He’s a real gritty, scrappy guy. You’re not going to have to tell him to run people over. He’s a tough kid. He was coached the right way.”

Doeren stayed away from comparing Lynch to Harnish, but he did admit Lynch was even faster than his predecessor and could be an even bigger threat to run.

“Jordan is a better runner than Chandler,” Doeren said. “Chandler had good speed, but he could be tracked down. Jordan will run away from people. He’s fast. If he gets away, there’s no margin for error.”

Lynch’s debut as starting quarterback isn’t your ordinary one. Being from Chicago, Soldier Field is a special place for him. Plus, he expects plenty of family and friends in the stands. Finally, Northern Illinios is going up against a Big Ten opponent.

“Right off you’re playing Iowa, and it’s in my backyard,” Lynch said. “It’s going to be exciting.”

Colts tab NIU's Harnish as Mr. Irrelevant

April, 29, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- Mr. Irrelevant suddenly has a whole new meaning for Chandler Harnish.

The Northern Illinois quarterback who was taken with the 253rd and final pick of the draft Saturday didn't just get a title and a vacation. He got a chance to play for his favorite NFL team and potentially to be a backup for Andrew Luck.

[+] EnlargePaul Salata, Mr. Irrelevant
AP Photo/Alix DrawecThe Colts made N. Illinois quarterback and Indiana native Chandler Harnish the new Mr. Irrelevant.
First, he'll make the trip to Disneyland, appear in the Irrelevant Week parade in Newport Beach, Calif., and put his Colts license plate back on his car. Hey, it's OK -- he's an Indiana native.

"I'm happy to be wanted by a team and I'm happy to be an Indianapolis Colt because that's been my favorite team all the way through," he told local reporters on a conference call shortly after the selection was announced.

For the Colts and the NFL, it was a historic first.

Read the entire story here.
It was impossible for quarterback Chandler Harnish to keep a low profile the past four years at Northern Illinois. The 2011 MAC Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Harnish amassed 11,927 yards of total offense -- the third-highest total in conference history behind Byron Leftwich and former Bears draft choice Dan LeFevour -- and 92 touchdowns (68 passing, 24 rushing) during his career with the Huskies. In 2011, the quarterback threw for 3,216 yards, 28 touchdowns and just six interceptions, while also rushing for 1,379 yards and 11 scores.

[+] EnlargeNorthern Illinois' Chandler Harnish
Andrew Weber/US PresswireNorthern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish was the MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2011.
But Harnish sounds content to stay out of the spotlight on draft weekend.

"My agent [Cliff Brady] gave me some real sound advice," Harnish said. "He told me not to have a big draft party. Being that I'm a guy projected to be a late-round pick, it's just not a good idea. He's seen it before where guys have these big parties at their house, and then they don't even get drafted. I'm going to be very low key."

Harnish began the draft process by playing in the East-West Shrine game in January before traveling to Indianapolis for the NFL combine the following month. He has been working out at NIU throwing to receivers since the Huskies held their pro day on campus in early March.

Harnish recently made an official visit to the Seattle Seahawks.

"It's kind of been a hectic process, but it's been a great experience," Harnish said. "Nobody really knows exactly where they are going to end up, so it's a kind of an inexact science. I don't get too caught up in the number of visits because sometimes that doesn't matter. I just tried to put my best foot forward whenever I met with all the teams at the combine and pro days. At the end of the day, I 'm proud of myself and feel good about my performance on the field and in the interview rooms."

Whenever a quarterback enjoys great success at the collegiate level in a spread offense, there will usually be questions about his ability to transition to a more traditional NFL offense. For Harnish, the trick will be finding the right system to fit his style of play.

"I think being an athletic quarterback coming out of college is something I could definitely use to my advantage because the NFL’s changing, and quarterbacks are being able to move out of the pocket more and more and that’s a good trend for me," Harnish said. "But again, I still need to show that I can make the throws and do the things from under center and the different dropbacks to prove that I can play in this league."

Three local players added to Shrine Game

January, 11, 2012
Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa and offensive tackle Al Netter and Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish have been selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game.

Persa became the NCAA’s all-time leader in completion percentage this season. He completed 218 of 297 passes for 2,376 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.

Netter started 52 games, including 44 straight, at left tackle for the Wildcats. He was an Outland Trophy candidate and was named to the AFCA Good Works Team.

Harnish was one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country this season. Harnish finished 15th in the nation in rushing with 1,379 yards, leading all quarterbacks. He also ran for 11 touchdowns and passed for 28 touchdowns against six interceptions.

The game will be held at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Jan. 21.

Season review: NIU closes with flourish

January, 10, 2012
Chandler HarnishZumapress/Icon SMIChandler Harnish and NIU may have started slow, but they finished with a flourish.
Northern Illinois' 2011 football season had its early downs, but the Huskies turned their year around and ended it with much celebration. Here's a look back on the year that was for the Huskies.

The 2011 season in a nutshell: Northern Illinois dropped three of its first five games under first-year coach Dave Doeren. Few could have expected such a slow start for the Huskies, but then again, few could have also expected such a strong finish for them. Northern Illinois won its last nine games of the season. The Huskies took the MAC West with a surprising blowout over Western Michigan and a 63-60 win over Toledo, defeated Ohio in the MAC championship and beat Arkansas State 38-20 in the Bowl on Sunday. They finished just outside the final top 25 rankings.

Team MVP: Other than Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, there probably wasn't a better dual-threat quarterback than Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish in the country this season. Harnish finished 15th in the nation in rushing with 1,379 yards and led all quarterbacks in that category. He also ran for 11 touchdowns. He was 237-of-384 passing for 28 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Defensive MVP: Senior linebacker Pat Schiller led a young and inexperienced defense this season. He had a team-high 115 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and two sacks.

Unsung heroes: Harnish gets a lot of credit for the team's offensive production, but that success also had a lot to do with the Huskies' experienced offensive line. Senior tackles Trevor Olson and Keith Otis, senior guard Joe Pawlak, junior guard Logan Pegram and senior center Scott Wedige started a combined 173 games in their careers.

Highest point of the season: Northern Illinois rallied from a 20-0 second-half deficit to defeat Ohio 23-20 in the MAC championship game. Harnish connected with Martel Moore and Nathan Palmer for touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, and Matthew Sims made up for a missed extra point with a 33-yard field goal to win the game as time expired. It was the Huskies' first MAC title since 1983.

Lowest point of the season: Being routed by Wisconsin 49-7 at Soldier Field wasn't easy to swallow for the Huskies, but their lowest point was falling to Central Michigan a few weeks later. Northern Illinois dropped to 2-3, and its hopes of a MAC championship and even a bowl game didn't appear great at the time.

Quote of the year: "What happened last year? Like I said yesterday, this is where our senior class would leave our legacy, and why not go out the hard way? The only history worth a damn is the one we create today. We had some bad demons we wanted to avenge from last year, but this feels good." -- Harnish after the MAC championship .

Looking ahead: Northern Illinois will have plenty of shoes to fill on offense next season. It loses four starting offensive linemen, a senior starting tailback and fullback, three key senior wide receivers, two senior tight ends and Harnish. The good news is there will be nine defensive starters back. Bowl

December, 5, 2011
Arkansas State Red Wolves (10-2) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (10-3)

Jan. 8, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Arkansas State take by college football blogger Matt Fortuna: The Red Wolves' 45-14 win Saturday over Troy made them the first team in Sun Belt Conference history to win 10 regular-season games. Hugh Freeze became just the 14th FBS first-year head coach to win 10 regular-season games. In addition, by going 8-0 in conference play, Arkansas State is just the third school in Sun Belt history to go undefeated in conference play.

The Red Wolves have their first 10-win season since 1986 and are on a nine-game winning streak for the first time since 1975. They won seven games by double-digits, their most since 1987. And they have done it behind both sides of the ball, ranking 25th in total offense and 20th in total defense.

Wide receiver Dwayne Frampton has rewritten the school record book, amassing a school-record 1,125 receiving yards on 90 catches this season. His 159 career catches are a school record. His five 100-yard receiving games this year are tied for most in a single season in school history.

Defensively, the Red Wolves have held six opponents below 20 points and seven below 100 rushing yards, and have 18 interceptions, tied for fifth in the nation.

NIU take from Nation blogger Andrea Adelson: Not again, right? Every time Northern Illinois had gotten into the MAC title game, it ended in disappointment for the Huskies.

They were back in it this year after losing a heartbreaker in 2010, and found themselves down 20-0 to Ohio at one point in the second half. But quarterback Chandler Harnish willed his team to a win, and the defense came up with huge plays as the Huskies rallied for a 23-20 victory, tying the largest comeback in school history. Northern Illinois can call itself conference champions for the second time, and have posted back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history.

Northern Illinois also is one of just five teams among the non-AQs to have at least six wins in five straight seasons.

Perhaps most impressive about the championship is this: The Huskies did it with a first-year coach in Dave Doeren and nine new starters on defense. Plus, they lost MVP running back Chad Spann. Without him, Harnish picked up his game and won MAC Offensive Player of the Year honors, setting a school record with more than 4,000 yards of total offense, and adding 37 touchdowns.

Harnish, always a threat out of the backfield, had more than 1,000 yards on the ground -- the 12th time in 13 seasons the Huskies had somebody go for more than 1,000 yards rushing. Jasmin Hopkins replaced Spann in the backfield and ran for 932 yards and 15 touchdowns. Linebacker Pat Schiller leads the way with 108 tackles, including 10 for loss. This is a team that is generally involved in some pretty entertaining and close games. Seven games have been decided by a touchdown or less -- five by a field goal or less.

NIU QB Harnish wins MAC MVP award

November, 30, 2011
Northern Illinois senior quarterback Chandler Harnish was the named the winner of the MAC’s Vern Smith Leadership Award, which goes to the conference’s MVP, on Wednesday.

Harnish is the fifth Northern Illinois player to receive the award in the past six years. Former Northern Illinois running back Chad Spann received the honor last season.

“I’m still having trouble processing [the fact that I won],” Harnish said in a statement. “I am so proud that an NIU player has won this award in five of the last six years, and to be to recognized with them, and be the first Huskie quarterback since Tim Tyrrell to win this award, is an awesome feeling.”

Harnish was also named the MAC’s Offensive Player of the year.

Harnish has completed 203 of 322 passes for 2,692 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He’s also rushed for 1,351 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Northern Illinois, which is 9-3 overall, plays Ohio in the MAC championship game on Friday.

Chandler Harnish had a big Friday, running for 148 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown, and threw a 54-yard touchdown pass as Northern Illinois wrapped up a spot in the Mid-American Conference championship game by beating Eastern Michigan 18-12.

NIU's Harnish among best dual-threat QBs

November, 10, 2011
Northern Illinois’ sputtering start to the season never allowed a “Harnish for Heisman” campaign to get off the ground.

Yet despite the Huskies’ early woes during a 2-3 start to the season and a so-so individual performance against Wisconsin, senior quarterback Chandler Harnish has generated Heisman-like numbers for a majority of the year. He may even be the nation’s premier dual-threat quarterback.

[+] EnlargeChandler Harnish
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireNorthern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish is averaging 327.8 yards of total of offense a game this season.
Harnish doesn’t get the publicity or respect given to Michigan’s Denard Robinson, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson or some of the other BCS dual-threat quarterbacks, but his numbers are better than most of them.

Harnish has averaged 327.8 yards of total of offense a game this season. That ranks him ninth in the country. Six of the quarterbacks ahead of him are predominantly passing quarterbacks. The other three quarterbacks are Clemson’s Tajh Boyd (164 rushing yards on 89 carries), Hawaii’s Bryant Moniz (299 yards on 80 carries) and Griffin III (386 yards on 106 carries).

Boyd’s and Moniz’s rushing numbers are too far off for them to be in the dual-threat discussion. A case can be made more for Griffin III. He has averaged 309 passing yards a game and 86 rushing yards. Harnish has averaged 225 passing yards and 102 rushing yards.

Even if Griffin III were to win that debate, Harnish is right there with him as a dual-threat quarterback.

“He's an athlete that makes plays with his feet and his arm,” ESPN Scouts Inc.’s Steve Muench said of Harnish. “He's a lot of fun to watch when he's forced to improvise. He's a perfect fit for Northern Illinois' spread sets. There's also a lot to like about four-year starters that show improvement over the course of their careers.”

From a pure running standpoint, there is no better quarterback than Harnish this season. He leads all FBS quarterbacks in rushing with 1,029 yards and his 8.0 yards per carry is tied for third with Oregon running back LaMichael James among all FBS players.

Harnish has completed 168 of 267 passes for 2,256 yards (ranks 26th), 20 touchdowns (ranks 18th) and four interceptions (tied for second least with minimum of 250 attempts). His 155.6 quarterback rating also ranks him 16th in the nation.

Of course, the one constant knock on Harnish when comparing him to BCS quarterbacks is that he plays in an inferior conference. But the MAC has produced its share of NFL quarterbacks, including Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, Chad Pennington, Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Batch, Charlie Frye and Nate Davis.

Harnish could join that group, too.

“Harnish is also an interesting NFL prospect,” Muench said. “On one hand, he has above-average mobility and enough arm strength to make all the necessary throws. I like the way he squared his shoulders to the line before he released the ball when he rolled to his left. There's nothing to suggest that his intangibles aren't above average either.

“On the other hand, he isn't quite 6-foot-2. While he flashed the ability to check down, I don't think he's seeing the entire field from within the pocket. He didn't appear to have a cannon for an arm. There will be concerns about the level of competition. There will be concerns about his ability to transition to a pro-style scheme, though this may not hurt him much. There are some elements of pro-style offenses in what Northern Illinois does, and he played in a pro-style system earlier in his career.”

For now, Northern Illinois fans are savoring what could be his final games in the upcoming weeks. He has between 2-4 games left depending on how the Huskies fare in its next two games.

Among Harnish’s supporters down this final stretch will be former Northern Illinois running back Garrett Wolfe, who made his own Heisman push in his day.

“He is the centerpiece of that offense and will go as far as he takes them,” Wolfe said. “I enjoy watching him.”

Northern Illinois moved to 7-3 behind the arm of QB Chandler Harnish. Harnish was 16-for-26 for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Rapid Reaction: N. Illinois 45, B. Green 14

November, 8, 2011

Here’s a quick look at Northern Illinois' 45-14 win over Bowling Green on Tuesday at Perry Stadium.

How it happened: Another MAC offensive slugfest appeared to be on the horizon when Bowling Green scored on its first play and Northern Illinois answered two plays later. At 14:00 of the first quarter, there had already been 152 yards accumulated and 14 points scored. Even Northern Illinois, which was coming off its 63-point game against Toledo, couldn’t keep up that tempo. The Huskies didn’t strike as quickly from that point on, but they did continue to move the ball and put points on the board. They built a 24-7 lead in the second quarter and held Bowling Green off the rest of the way. Bowling Green’s offense faltered after its hot start. The Falcons found the end zone just once more on the night.

What it means: The victory brings Northern Illinois closer to the MAC West Division title. It improved to 5-1 in the conference. Toledo entered the evening with the same record, but Northern Illinois owns the tiebreaker after defeating the Rockets last week. Toledo was also in action against Western Michigan on Tuesday, but the game was still ongoing when Northern Illinois’ game completed.

Player of the game: Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish continued his dominance in the MAC. He was 16-of-26 passing for 294 yards and two touchdowns and he ran for 151 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries. He leads all FBS quarterbacks in rushing yards. He sat most of the fourth quarter with the game secured.

Outside the box: Northern Illinois’ defense has had its troubles this season, and it looked as if those troubles might continue Tuesday after allowing the first play to go for a touchdown. But the Huskies’ defense stepped up after that. With its shutout of Bowling Green in the second half, it was the first time the Huskies blanked a team for an entire half this season.

What’s next: Northern Illinois will host Ball State next Tuesday on ESPNU. Ball State is 4-2 in the MAC West. Bowling Green plays Ohio next week.

Onside gamble doesn't pay off for Huskies

September, 17, 2011

CHICAGO -- The hardest part for Northern Illinois when it reviews Saturday’s 49-7 loss to Wisconsin won’t be re-watching the Badgers score seven touchdowns, Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson's brilliance or all the Huskies’ dropped passes.

Sure, none of that will be fun to endure again.

But what will really get to the Huskies’ stomachs will be the replay -- and likely slow-motion replay -- of Northern Illinois’ failed onside kick attempt. The No. 7 Badgers may have been too much for Northern Illinois no matter the play’s outcome, but the Huskies would love to know how the game would have played out if the ball had bounced their way.

It certainly was already on their minds minutes after the game.

“I think if we get the onside kick -- and I’m not blaming anyone -- it could have been a game-changer,” Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish said.

Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren had planned the onside kick days before. Having been Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator for five years, he understood the Badgers’ personnel as well as anyone. He thought the only way his Huskies would be able to compete with Wisconsin was to tire its massive linemen.

Doeren’s idea to achieve that was to score early, onside the ball, recover it and go down the field again for another quick touchdown. If the Huskies accomplished that, Doeren believed his team had a chance.
On Northern Illinois’ third drive, Harnish completed passes of 20 and 39 yards, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run by Jasmin Hopkins to tie the game at 7-7 with 1:59 left in the first quarter.

Then, came the dramatic onside attempt.

Northern Illinois kicker Matthew Sims popped the ball high into the air. After the ball bounced off the first Wisconsin player who had a chance to catch it, the Badgers’ Bradie Ewing ran under it. But when he touched it, Northern Illinois’ Courtney Stephen collided with him, and the ball flew loose again.

With the ball soaring in the air, Northern Illinois’ Dominique Ware was the next to reach for it. As he was about to pull it down, teammate Stephen O’Neal knocked into him. Ware tried to hold onto it as he fell, but it wasn’t to be. Wisconsin’s Jacob Pedersen finally wrestled it away from Ware and gained the possession.

With that, the ball, the momentum and eventually the game were Wisconsin’s. The Badgers scored three plays later, and Northern Illinois never challenged them again.

The Huskies were left playing the “what if” game afterward.

“Had we gotten that surprise onside and marched down the field to get them tired and scored, then it’s a different ballgame,” Doeren said. “That was the game plan. Obviously, it backfired. They got a short field and took advantage.”

Three games into his coaching career, Doeren finds his Huskies at 1-2. It wasn’t where they hoped to be, but they also understood it was a distinct possibility with playing Kansas on the road and then highly-ranked Wisconsin.

What Doeren and his players immediately took to heart after Saturday’s loss was that the Huskies were in this same predicament last season and recovered. They began last season with a loss to Iowa State, a win over South Dakota and a loss to Illinois. At 1-2, Northern Illinois responded with nine consecutive wins.

Doeren wasn’t around last season, but he’s read up on his Northern Illinois history.

“We’re 1-2,” Doeren said. “We were 1-2 here last year and went on a run. That’s what we’re going to talk about when we get home. We got a nine-game schedule left. Every goal on our board is still there.”

If history is to repeat itself, Harnish believes the Huskies’ leaders have to be accountable.

“We got a lot of seniors on the team,” Harnish said. “We have a lot of leadership, guys with experience. We’re going to bounce back. We’re going to put this one out of our memory, and we’re going into Cal Poly [next week] like we’re going into a fresh season.

“We have to be great leaders this week and bounce back from adversity. We always talk about doing it the hard way. This is a great week for us to step up and show what we’re made of.”

No intimidating NIU QB Harnish

September, 17, 2011
CHICAGO -- Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish isn’t going to be intimidated when Wisconsin’s massive linemen set up across from him on Saturday afternoon.

The 23-year-old quarterback has been around too long and played and had success against too many BCS teams to be anything but confident against the Badgers.

“I think we just do what we do,” Harnish said earlier in the week. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We went out and played a Big 12 team [Kansas] last week and put up 460 yards of offense.

“We’re not scared of anybody. We’ve been here forever. Most of us are five-year guys. We know what to expect. We’ve seen it all. We’ve played against some great players, and we’ll play some this week.”

Last week, Harnish was as good as any quarterback in the country. He completed 27-of-33 passes for 315 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 89 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries.

Harnish and the Huskies faced two Big Ten last season. In a loss to Illinois and a win over Minnesota, he was 30-of-42 passing for 289 yards, two touchdowns and no interception, and he rushed 124 yards and a touchdown.

“Offensively, we have to care of the football, we need to establish a run game, and just be the most physical team out there for four quarters,” Harnish said about playing Wisconsin. “If we do those simple three things, we’ll put ourselves in an opportunity to win the game.”

NIU's Wedige excelling loud and clear

September, 16, 2011
Scott WedigeScott Walstrom, NIU Media ServicesScott Wedige was a two-time first team All-MAC conference selection at center for Northern Illinois.
DeKALB, Ill. -- Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish couldn't remember the first time Huskies center Scott Wedige yelled at him, but he could recall his reaction.

"It's like, ‘Hey, I'm the quarterback,'" Harnish said. "‘You can't yell at me.'"

Harnish soon learned the reason Wedige yelled at him was the same reason Harnish occasionally took his frustration out on Wedige. They both wanted to win so badly.

"He's the quarterback of the offensive line," Harnish said. "He's that middle guy that's going to make a lot of calls and get those guys in the right spots and set the right protections. Once I realized that, I'm like, ‘Okay. I respect what he's doing.'"

Come Saturday when Northern Illinois faces No. 7 Wisconsin at Soldier Field, if the Huskies' offense isn't functioning properly and taking it to the Badgers, you can expect Harnish and Wedige to have a few more words. While most relationship counselors wouldn't recommend it, it's their way of fixing problems.

Often, it works.

"You talk back," Wedige said. "It happens. It's a part of football. He respects it. I respect him when he yells at me. Last year at Minnesota, we jawed back and forth because we want to strive for perfection. We want it to be perfect.

"I think we're extremely big competitors. When things don't go right, there's going to be a little bickering because you want that perfection and you want that excellence."

Wedige is considered one of college football's top centers and a potential NFL player in part because of his desire to be great. Northern Illinois offensive line coach Rod Carey has met few players who put in as much time as Wedige does to his craft.

"Scott is an elite center because of his work ethic," Carey said. "Not to take anything away from his talent, he's very, very talented. He's a 305-pound kid who can run, plays with good leverage, has good flexion.

"But he almost watches as much as film I do, if not more on a given week. His worth ethic is what does it. He knows what he's going to get in a game before he even gets into a game. I think it's consistent in the great ones. He is one."

Wedige credits that approach to having learned from former Northern Illinois center Eddie Adamski. Adamski's ability kept Wedige off the field the first two years at center, but Wedige can see now how that benefitted him.

"He was a great guy to learn from," Wedige said. "He taught me how to watch film, taught me a lot of footwork and a lot of little technique things and a lot of little things that just help you out. It worked out for the best. I got to learn from the best, and now last year, I got to step in and had a pretty good year being all-MAC as well."

Wedige earned all-conference honors last year as being part of an offensive line that ranked 14th in the country in sacks, allowing just 13 sacks in 329 passing attempts last season. Now, he's starting to attract some NFL attention for his play.

Saturday will give scouts another opportunity to evaluate Wedige against highly skilled defensive linemen. For Wedige, it's also a chance for a little payback. Wisconsin had recruited Wedige, but never offered him.

Wedige grew up in Elkhorn, Wisc. and appeared on the Badgers' radar as an all-conference offensive tackle in high school. Wisconsin showed plenty of interest in him, but decided to go another direction in the end.

"They recruited me," Wedige said. "I went to their camp. I was talking to them the whole way. They offered another guy in front of me.

"I know a lot of the guys on the team. We were being recruited and going to camps and stuff. It just gives me a little extra chip to go out there and play those guys and put a beating on some of them."

Wedige will have plenty of people at Soldier Field supporting him to do that. There's a bus leaving from his hometown Saturday morning to go to the game. Plus, he has other people coming from elsewhere. All together, he thought there would be 83 people there just for him.

"This is a great opportunity for our program to be a BCS buster and go out and play a top-5 team," Wedige said. "Not many teams can say that. I look at this a great opportunity for us. We want to go out and do our job and come out on top."

Wisconsin to see familiar face Saturday

September, 15, 2011
A potential reunion with the Wisconsin Badgers crossed Dave Doeren's mind even before he became Northern Illinois' coach.

As he mulled NIU's offer in December, Doeren, then the Badgers' defensive coordinator, called his boss and friend, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema.

[+] EnlargeDave Doeren
Peter G. Aiken/US PRESSWIRENorthern Illinois coach Dave Doeren will play his former team as the Huskies take on the Badgers.
"Bret and I were talking about whether I should or shouldn't take it, the pros and cons, this and that," Doeren recalled. "And I started laughing. I said, 'One of the deals is I've got to play two schools where I've worked, Kansas and Wisconsin. That sucks.' That's the negative to it when you look at being friends."

Bielema knew it would "put an interesting spin on everything."

"I still called the AD, did everything I could to help him get that job," he said. "It was something Dave had earned."

The positives of the NIU job won out, and Doeren accepted. After facing Kansas last week, he'll lead his Huskies team against Bielema and the seventh-ranked Badgers on Saturday afternoon at Chicago's Soldier Field.

Doeren's familiarity with Wisconsin's players and coaches could help Northern Illinois as it prepares for the game. Then again, the Badgers aren't known for tricky schemes. They do what they've always done, and they do it well.

"They're playing so well right now, I don't know if being there [previously] really helps," Doeren said. "They're a really talented football team. Obviously, I have some insight into their players, so that does help, but schematically, whether you were there or not, when you play Wisconsin, you're going to know what they're going to be in.

"You've just got to be able to stop it, and they take pride in that."

While Doeren saw Wisconsin's offense every day in practice the past few years, he's not as familiar with the man calling signals for the Badgers. Quarterback Russell Wilson, who transferred from NC State this summer, has been brilliant in his first two games for Wisconsin, ranking second nationally in passer rating (237.6) and completing 27 of 34 attempts (79.4 percent).

Doeren says Wilson is "like having Tolzien who can run," referring to former Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien, who completed 72.9 percent of his passes in 2010 but wasn't known for his foot speed.

"You've got that extremely confident, intelligent leader that knows how to manage the game," Doeren said, "but now when things break down, he can run for touchdowns. ... The athletic dimension he brings when things break down is something they haven't had since Tyler Donovan."

Wisconsin's ground game remains its M.O., and Northern Illinois' young defense ranks near the bottom of the FBS against the run, allowing 556 rush yards and six touchdowns in its first two games against Army and Kansas. If the Huskies can't stop Wisconsin's run attack Saturday, they'll have "no chance," Doeren said.

What gives NIU hope is an explosive offense led by senior quarterback Chandler Harnish. The Huskies have scored 91 points in their first two games and Harnish ranks among the top 10 nationally in both passer rating (197.96) and total offense (339.5 ypg).

Although Wisconsin comes off of a shutout against Oregon State, it lost starting cornerback Devin Smith to a season-ending foot injury. The Badgers lack depth at corner and could be vulnerable against the pass.

"Our skill is very good, our quarterback is playing well, tailbacks are all running hard when they're in there and we have a veteran O-line," Doeren said. "To me, that is where we match up well."

Doeren recruited Badgers defenders like safety Aaron Henry and linebacker Kevin Claxton. He considers Bielema and co-defensive coordinators Chris Ash and Charlie Partridge among his best friends.

"It's part of the deal," Doeren said. "You're going to run into guys that you're friends with and coach against them. You recruit against your friends all the time.

"It's not the most fun thing to do, but it's something you do quite a bit."



Thursday, 10/2
Friday, 10/3
Saturday, 10/4