By JOHN SAHLY - jsahly@daily-chronicle.com

Homecoming weekend for Harnish

DeKALB – Chandler Harnish estimates it takes between an hour-and-a-half and two hours to travel from his hometown of Bluffton Ind., to West Lafayette, Ind., the site of the Northern Illinois football team's game Saturday at Purdue.

To those traveling the same route west on US-24, count on the two hours.

Harnish said Tuesday that he'll have a contingent between 300 and 400 friends and family at Saturday's game. And he'll know every single one of them.

"It's definitely going to be a fun experience," Harnish said. "It's always fun to play back in Indiana just because you get so many friends and family there."

There was a time, though, that Harnish thought his friends and family would make the trip a little more often than once in his college career.

Harnish got a serious look from the Boilermakers under then-coach Joe Tiller, which was great news for Harnish, who grew up a fan of Purdue, although he said Tuesday he probably was more of a fan of Notre Dame in his youth.

"I was heavily recruited by [Purdue], and that's the school I felt like I was going to my whole high school career," Harnish said. "It just fell through and Northern gave me the opportunity and I don't regret it at all.

"I was just that second-tier type athlete. I think they had offered a couple quarterbacks previously and they accepted their offers."

Purdue since has moved two high school quarterbacks who signed with the Boilermakers while Harnish trekked North to NIU – Josh McKinley and Tyler Haston – to safety and linebacker, respectively.

With the fuel of waiting for a call that never came from his opponent coupled with a game in front of hundreds of people he's shared memories, accomplishments and likely some birthday cake with along the way, the logical jump is to say Harnish will have the energy.

Five days before the game, Harnish realized how important it was not to be that guy on Saturday.

"One thing that can be dangerous with that is I can go out and try to do too much and that can hurt our team," he said. "I really need to focus in and do my part and lead our guys and just keep moving our offense."

So far this season, that's all Harnish has done for the 1-1 Huskies. He hasn't committed a turnover and has completed 65.8 percent of his passes.

"If you look at them on offense, they have a sophomore quarterback, but he throws the
ball well," Purdue coach Danny Hope said at his news conference Tuesday. "[He] gets the ball out of his hands fast. He's accurate with his throws, and he threw it for [55] percent last year."

More important for the sake of NIU's offense, Harnish is not leading the team in rushing like he did last season. He's in a comfortable fourth with 31 rushing yards.

"It's great that we have a good running game, and I said earlier in the year that if I'm not running the ball it's a good thing," Harnish said. "And lately I haven't been running as much and we've been playing better because of it."

Copyright 2014 Northwest Herald. All rights reserved.