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Grady set to fill the void

NIU quarterback DeMarcus Grady will likely start the next 2-3 weeks with Chandler Harnish out.
NIU quarterback DeMarcus Grady will likely start the next 2-3 weeks with Chandler Harnish out.

OXFORD, Ohio – DeMarcus Grady insists the next 2-3 weeks won’t be any different for him.

He knows otherwise, becoming the starting quarterback simply is different and the pressures are unique to any other position. But that’s how the sophomore quarterback said he will look at his time as Northern Illinois’ starter while Chandler Harnish could be out 2-3 weeks with an unspecified right knee injury.

“Coach [Jerry Kill] has been saying it all year, while we were practicing, approach it like you’re the starter, whether you’re staring or not,” Grady said. “That’s going to be my approach.”

If Saturday is any evidence, NIU’s offense may undergo a few minor changes and become even more of a run-oriented team.

Grady is a faster runner than Harnish and the NIU coaching staff aimed to utilize Grady’s running ability, giving him 10 rushing attempts during Saturday’s 27-22 victory at Miami (Ohio). The major difference in the Huskie offense was the number of passing attempts – 10 – the same number as Grady’s rushes.

Contrast that with Harnish, who averaged 21 pass attempts a game in his first six games.

Grady completed 6 of his 10 passes for 60 yards, mostly on short routes with a few long shots down the field, like his 33-yard completion to Landon Cox, to keep the defense honest.

The biggest play from Grady came on the run in the fourth quarter when he avoided pressure and ran for 33 yards on a second-and-11 play to put NIU in Miami territory. The Huskies got a field goal out of the drive to make it a two-possession game.

Kill said that play showed a lot about Grady and what he can do for the Huskies while they prepare for a three-game homestand against three of the bottom teams in the MAC in Akron, Eastern Michigan and Ball State that could leave the Huskies not only eligible for a bowl, but in contention for the MAC West title by the end of it.

“It says more so that he’s not been discouraged,” Kill said. “He’s paid attention on the sidelines and he’s listened.”

What’s unknown at this point is what will happen if Grady has to win a game with his arm. It’s something he hasn’t been asked to do for the Huskies and how he responds in that situation could have a long-term impact for NIU.

Grady sounded confident he could find open receivers in his throws and make the right reads when defenses turn up the pressure.

“The thing about it is just trusting guys,” Grady said. “They trust that me, Chandler, Ryan [Morris], whoever is going to put it in the right spot.”

Grady also does have the support of his teammates, as Harnish does.

“We love DeMarcus. Everybody does,” left guard Jason Onyebuagu said. “It’s an opportunity for him to show everybody what he can do.”

Now it’s up to Grady to deliver.

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