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September 06, 2005 - Image 15

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-09-06

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-1-9

The Michigan Daily - SportsTuesdav - Seotember 6. 2005 - 3B

RYAN WEINER/Daily
4 Northern Illinois
running back Garrett
Wolfe tries evading
Michigan cornerback
Leon Hall in Saturday's
33-17 victory for the
>Wolverines. Wolfe
accounted for 179
all-purpose yards and
proved the Huskles
were a formidable
F a opponent for Michigan.
How about some respect?
The Huskies deserve it

Icould use this space to write about the Michigan
defense and how it gave up 17 points and more than 400
yards of offense to Northern Illinois. I could use this
space to write about how sick Chad Henne and Mike Hart
are going to be or how Jason Avant kicked off his Bilet-
nikoff Award candidacy with a performance that Terrell
Owens might have spiked the star for. I could
even use this space to write about video games
and Natty Light.
But I have to be honest: I was pretty happy
with the game this Saturday. I wasn't thrilled,
and I'm not ready to start the Heisman cam-
paign for Steve Breaston quite yet. But this
team we played was pretty damn good. I don't'
think a lot of people - or, rather, I don't think
a lot of people in Ann Arbor - know anything
about Northern Illinois.
So let's start with the easy stuff. The school L
is located in DeKalb, Ill., which, as you might HER
guess, is in the northern third of Illinois.
DeKalb is west of Chicago, just 50 miles south The Spor
of Wisconsin. The school's mascot is the Husky, Cp
which was obvious if you watched the player
introductions. The coach is Joe Novak, and Novak coached
with Lloyd Carr at the University of Illinois. Carr has noth-
ing but praise for the MAC coach. "I don't think anybody
in this country's done a better job coaching than Joe has,"
Carr said of Novak last week.
But there's a lot of stuff about the Huskies that may
not be quite as simple as mascots, coaches and cities. For
instance, while watching the game on Saturday, you could
probably tell that running back Garrett Wolfe was a pretty
good back. It didn't take very long, since Wolfe carried the
ball for 23 yards on his first two touches. And if that wasn't
enough, he really cleared matters up on the next drive.
The junior took the ball from quarterback Phil Horvath,
bounced it to the outside and made Michigan cornerback
Grant Mason look silly on his way to the house. When
Wolfe scampered down the left sideline and into the north
endzone, you could almost hear the Michigan faithful sigh-.
ing, "Oh, no. Not again this year."
But you wouldn't know from that 76-yard run that x

.A
rh
lu

Wolfe's 179 all-purpose yards - 148 of which came on the
ground - aren't that unusual. Michigan was lucky to hold
him to just 179 yards. Last year, Wolfe averaged 182.2 yards
per game. So give the Wolverines credit for 3.2 yards. He's
only 5-foot-7, 177 pounds, but the guy is a stud. He ran for
well over 1,600 yards last year on a team that used two run-
ning backs. The team's second back, senior A.J.
Harris, gained 66 yards on his own Saturday.
You might have heard by now that Michi-
gan has never lost to a MAC school, but that
shouldn't take anything away from Northern
Illinois, either. This team has surprised a lot of
people in the last five years.
The Huskies lost 23 straight games from
1996-1998. Over those three years - Novak's
first three - they totaled three wins. Since
then, Northern Illinois has had two six-win
LN seasons, followed by a year with eight, then a
miraculous 10 and a modest drop to nine wins.
BERT That's almost as many victories over the last
s Tuesday three years as the mighty Wolverines.
imn But you're thinking, "This is the MAC.
They don't play any good teams." That's
another interesting thing about the Huskies. They schedule
tough nonconference games. This year they play Michi-
gan and Northwestern before the MAC season. Two years
ago, they had a breakout season with wins over Maryland,
Alabama and Iowa State. And the Alabama game was in
Tuscaloosa. They've been ranked as high as 10th in the
BCS and finished 27th last year. In each of the past three
seasons, Northern Illinois has earned a share of the MAC
West title.
This was not a team of ragged dogs. I realize that most
people expected Michigan to make the Huskies sit down
and roll over, but a little research about Northern Illinois
makes it clear that the Wolverines had their hands full. No
game is a gimme in college football, and Michigan fans
can't expect no-hitters every week.
Just ask Oklahoma - which lost 17-10 on Saturday to
Texas Christian at home.
- Herbert can be reached at iherbert@umich.edu.

I

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