DeKALB – The carousel at the Northern Illinois quarterback position continues.
NIU coach Rod Carey said he knows what he’s going to do moving forward, but he didn’t reveal Saturday’s starter at Buffalo while addressing reporters Tuesday afternoon.
Week 1 starter Ryan Graham continues to nurse a shoulder injury he suffered Sept. 1 against Boston College, but he started throwing last week in practice. Carey referred Graham’s practice load to a pitch count in baseball.
“We’re not letting him throw as much as he wants to, although his pitch count is getting really high,” Carey said. “We’ve still got to see how (his shoulder) responds the day after we do something. He’s still limited. Part of the criteria is, can he hit the pitch count and how is he doing ... velocity, accuracy, all those things. The exciting thing is he’s getting out there.”
The NIU quarterback situation got even more interesting last week during the Huskies’ 24-3 win over Kent State. On NIU’s opening drive, backup redshirt sophomore Daniel Santacaterina was sacked twice. He threw an interception at the beginning of the second quarter – his only pass attempt on the rainy day.
After the turnover, Carey benched Santacaterina and turned to redshirt freshman Marcus Childers. Childers got the Huskies offense going with his mobility, but more importantly moved the chains. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 114 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Childers also picked up 65 rushing yards on 17 carries.
“Marcus had a fine day, and I was really pleased with him until the two turnovers at the end,” Carey said. “Santa did not play well. Him and I have talked and he understands that. He would admit to that, too ... so, that was disappointing.”
Carey said his plan could change day-to-day based on information he receives throughout the week approaching Buffalo.
“I could change what I’m doing tomorrow,” Carey said. “I don’t want to create that issue for our guys. I just want us to take care of us and for our guys to go out there and play.”
Beebe set to return this weekend: Senior receiver Chad Beebe (shoulder) is expected to play at Buffalo, Carey said.
Beebe has been out more than a month after suffering a shoulder injury and a concussion against Eastern Illinois on Sept. 9. Beebe went down on a hard hit by EIU defensive back Bradley Drewberry, who was called for targeting.
“We’ve been really cautious with (Beebe),” Carey said. “This week is Week 2 out of the sling. Right now, it’s not an injury thing. It’s a pain tolerance thing. I think he’ll be fine.”
Beebe has served as NIU’s top punt returner. He’s played 37 games for the Huskies, hauling in 46 catches for 638 yards.
Fellow senior receiver Christian Blake said he doesn’t think Beebe has lost a step since returning to practice.
“Him being back will be huge for this offense. ... He’s another senior leader,” Blake said. “He’s been progressing really, really well.”
Carey said Beebe’s reps will be limited if he does play at Buffalo.
Carey expects better practice from Huff: After rushing for nearly six yards a carry at San Diego State – his best game of the year – NIU tailback Jordan Huff totaled only 58 yards on 18 carries against Kent State.
Carey attributed a portion of Huff’s below-average performance to his preparation.
“Jordan did not play his best game in any way, shape or form,” Carey said. “I don’t think he had his best week of practice either. That showed. There are things on film, I think he missed some holes. ... It certainly isn’t all on him. When your run game is missing like that, it’s never just one thing.”
Huff’s 3.2 yards a carry against Kent State was his lowest average this season in games with at least six attempts. In five games this year, he’s rushed 405 yards on 75 attempts.
Carey said, “I want to see the offense come out, not just Jordan, and have a great day of practice with some great energy.”
Smith named MAC West Defensive Player of the Week: NIU sophomore defensive end Sutton Smith was named the Mid-American Conference West Defensive Player of the Week after a career-best performance against Kent State.
Smith led the Huskie defense with three sacks, four tackles for loss and a career-high 10 tackles against the Golden Flashes. The St. Charles, Missouri, native leads the nation in tackles for loss (14.5).
Smith is the fourth Huskie to earn MAC Player of the Week honors this season.