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NIU

Santacaterina leads Huskies to win against Panthers

NIU Huskies quarterback Daniel Santacaterina (7) drops back in the pocket against the Eastern Illinois Panthers at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb September 9.
NIU Huskies quarterback Daniel Santacaterina (7) drops back in the pocket against the Eastern Illinois Panthers at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb September 9.

DeKALB – Coming in on short notice, Daniel Santacaterina made the most of his first start of the season.

The sophomore quarterback, starting in place of junior Ryan Graham, threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns as the Northern Illinois football team cruised to a 38-10 home victory on Saturday, its first win of the year.

"That's the nature of being a backup – you prepare for it the same way," Santacaterina said. "You think you're going to play in your mind and get ready to go regardless."

Graham was hurt in the Huskies' season-opening loss September 1 at home to Boston College. The two quarterbacks were in a competition throughout the off season to see who would win the starting job. Graham won the battle, will miss one to two weeks, NIU coach Rod Carey said.

Santacaterina ended up throwing an interception in the third quarter, but it was 31-3 at that point.

"He was confident all spring, all summer. He had a great spring, a great summer," Jones said. "We knew coming in he's going to roll with that confidence. I thought we came out a little flat on offense, but Santa really stepped it up."

The deep passing game was much more efficient for the Huskies on Saturday than it was against Boston College. Carey said that was mostly due to the style of defense the Panthers were playing, staying more in the box and leaving more things open on the outside and deep.

Tears agreed, saying that was a big difference between the BC game and the EIU game.

"Last week we were used to getting pressed up a majority of the game," Tears said. "This game they played off, gave us a lot of opportunity to run certain routes."

Tears had four catches for 61 yards, DJ Brown had seven catches for 81 yards, and Chad Beebe had four catches for 32 yards. In the backfield, Jordan Huff had 11 carries for 88 yards and Marcus Jones had 11 for 70, reaching the end zone twice.

Santacaterina said the rest of the team had a big hand in his efficient numbers.

"I had good protection up front and the receivers made a lot of plays for me," Santacaterina said. "They made me look good."

As a backup quarterback, Santacaterina said he always has the mindset to be ready to play.

"It's football. It's the quarterback. There's only one guy who plays. That's the beauty of it," Santacaterina said. "There's also some downside to that, but it's the best position in sports."

Next up for the Huskies is a trip to Nebraska. Carey said that he expects Santacaterina to start the game, which starts at 11 a.m. Saturday.

"I don't see that Ryan could get himself ready," Carey said. "If I'm wrong, I'm wrong."

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