Created:Thursday, August 12, 2010 11:06 p.m.CDT
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Offense shines in scrimmage

By JEREMY WERNER - jwerner@daily-chronicle.com
Northern Illinois running back Ricky Crider makes a move during practice last week at Huskie Stadium. (Beck Diefenbach - bdiefenbach@daily-chronicle.com)

DeKALB – The Northern Illinois offense had grown tired of watching itself get pushed around by the Huskies' defense during after-practice film sessions.

So the NIU offense made its latest film session a bit more enjoyable as it came out as hot as the 100-degree heat index and picked apart the NIU defense during the team's first scrimmage Thursday morning at Huskie Stadium.

The NIU offense scored three touchdowns and passed for 160 yards on the first three possessions of the day.

"We've just been in the film room seeing things we need to see," said quarterback DeMarcus Grady, who completed 7 of 9 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. "Today we were able to make the throws, pick up on the blitzes that was thrown."

"It was a good experience to get out there, see everything flowing together starting off," added junior wide receiver Nate Palmer, who caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from junior Chandler Harnish.

But the defense woke up on the fourth possession when redshirt freshman cornerback Dominique Ware returned an interception – one of two interceptions thrown by junior quarterback Casey Weston – for a 65-yard touchdown.

The defense didn't give up another score until Grady found freshman Akeem Daniels for a 30-yard strike seven possessions later. The Huskies' pass rush was impressive, collecting seven sacks, including two by senior defensive end Jake Cofffman.

"I know no one on defense was happy with how we started," said senior defensive tackle D.J. Pirkle, who had a sack. "We can't put ourselves in that position in a game being down three scores like that that quick. That's just not acceptable."

Running backs Chad Spann and Jasmin Hopkins each added rushing touchdowns. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Lynch, who passed for 128 yards, tossed a 29-yard score to running back Ricky Crider.

The scrimmage, NIU's eighth practice of training camp, gave the NIU newcomers their first taste of the Division I tempo and allowed the veterans to get back into the flow of game-like situations.

For the Huskies coaches, it was all about monitoring individual progress.

"Our total focus today was about evaluating people, not so much schemes," coach Jerry Kill said. "There's some good things that happened offensively, then the defense rallied up and did some good things. After that, it went back and forth and each team had their moments."

Kill said he liked how his players "didn't give in" to the high temperatures during the 100-plus play scrimmage. But he said he's hoping to see more progress in Saturday's Fan Day scrimmage, scheduled for 9:50 a.m. at Huskie Stadium, especially from the Huskies' youth.

"I think people who (give NIU) all this hype and stuff, they don't understand how young a football team we have, and we are young, young, young, young – but talented," Kill said. "So we have to take that youth and they have to learn on the run. We're force-feeding them pretty good."

Will the NIU football team play for the MAC title this year?
Yes
No
Too soon to tell