DeKALB – Northern Illinois football players won’t be able to hit an opponent until Aug. 28, when the Huskies host Presbyterian.
The best chance any member of NIU’s roster will have at real competition takes place at 3 p.m. today, with the Huskies Bowl at Huskie Stadium, NIU’s annual end of spring scrimmage.
“You always look forward to the end of spring practice as a player. Spring practice is a grind,” NIU center Andrew Ness said. “You only have the spring game to look forward to. You don’t get to look forward to hitting someone else. You’re just banging your head against your teammates. It’s nice to compete against your teammates and bring it to a close with the Huskie Bowl.”
The original plan for the Huskie Bowl was to split up the rosters evenly into the Cardinal and Black teams, with cornerbacks coach Kelvin Sigler coaching the Cardinal and offensive line coach Joe Tripodi leading the Black.
However, the format had to be tweaked because of the amount of injuries NIU is dealing with, mainly on the defensive line and backfield. Therefore, the competition will be the offense (Black, coached by Tripodi) against the defense (Cardinal, coached by Sigler).
The Huskie Bowl will feature various drills, with points being awarded to either side, as well as scrimmage periods at the end. In the scrimmage, the offense will start at its own 15-yard line, and will gain seven points for a touchdown and three for a field goal. The defense can score points by forcing a three-and-out (three points), stopping the offense before it gets to midfield (two points), forcing a field goal (one point) and forcing a turnover (four points).
Tripodi’s team won last year’s game, and he doesn’t foresee any lack of competition.
“The way the format is set up now, you guys will see some heated battles in different drills these kids have been doing all spring. As a former player, especially an offensive lineman, those are your teammates, but you develop some personal vendettas, so to speak, of a competitive nature,” Tripodi said. “It’s that competitive nature that all our guys have that has helped this program develop an edge. That’s what you’ll get a chance to see this weekend and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
NIU coach Rod Carey said each of his team’s three quarterbacks – sophomores Anthony Maddie and Drew Hare and junior Matt McIntosh – will get one or two series in the scrimmage, and he wants to get them 15 to 25 snaps.
It will be months before he names a starter for this season, but Carey said each has shown improvements throughout the spring. Carey has said throughout spring drills that the battle to replace Jordan Lynch is even.
“It’s been a climb. It hasn’t been an up and down. It hasn’t been a yo-yo,” Carey said. “The first six [practices] were, I’m not kidding you, I think it was a different kid who graded out the highest each practice.”