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NIU backups get chance to shine

Massachusetts quarterback Mike Wegzyn (11) is pressured by Northern Illinois defensive end George Rainey (46) during the first half Saturday in Foxborough, Mass.
Massachusetts quarterback Mike Wegzyn (11) is pressured by Northern Illinois defensive end George Rainey (46) during the first half Saturday in Foxborough, Mass.

Saturday’s 63-19 win over UMass gave the Northern Illinois football team a chance to show off its depth.

With the contest already in hand, the Huskies’ first-stringers were out of the game early in the third quarter, meaning a lot of players got to get some legitimate game action.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Drew Hare completed 2 of 4 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown, and also had a 47-yard touchdown run. True freshman tailback Joel Bouagnon ran nine times for 39 yards, while his Aurora Christian High School teammate, true freshman wideout Chad Beebe, had an 81-yard touchdown catch from Hare.

“It’s invaluable. it’s something I don’t believe you can ever simulate to the point with your backups in practice, where you can form the opinion that they’re ready to go,” NIU coach Rod Carey said on Monday’s Mid-American Conference coaches teleconference. “When you have the opportunity like you did last week to get a half of football, it’ll pay dividends.”

It’s the second straight week NIU has been able to get it starters out of the game early, as the backups also saw significant time in the 59-20 win over Eastern Michigan Week 9.

Broncos, Eagles playing for hardware: In terms of the MAC West title race, Saturday’s game between Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan is meaningless, as both teams have only one win this season.

But for the respective programs, it’s an important rivalry game, and the Michigan MAC Trophy is on the line.

The trophy, won by the Eagles the past two seasons, goes to the team with the best head-to-head record among the three directional Michigan programs in the MAC.

This is the first game featuring two of the three teams. Western hosts Central on Saturday, Nov. 16, and the Eagles go to Mount Pleasant on Friday, Nov. 29.

“We’d still like to hold on to that trophy, keep it and have some success this weekend,” Eastern Michigan head coach Ron English said.

Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck said you can throw out records when it comes to rivalry games.

“We’re hungry for a win,” he said. “I know they’re going to be just as hungry as us.”

Owens coming up big for Rockets: He’s not at the level of NIU’s Jordan Lynch or Ball State’s Keith Wenning, but Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens is having a nice senior season, and has really come on over the past two weeks.

Owens threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday’s 55-16 win over Eastern Michigan, a week after throwing for three scores in the Rockets’ upset victory at Bowling Green.

Rockets coach Matt Campbell said his team needs Owens to play well the final month of the season.

“When he’s the guy that’s leading that charge,” Campbell said, “you feel really good about your football team.”

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