AMES, Iowa – Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill stuck with DeMarcus Grady as the Huskies' starting quarterback through spring practice and the August training camp.
And despite Grady's three-interception performance during a 27-10 loss on Thursday night in the season opener, Kill sounds like a man standing by his choice.
“He did some awful good things,” Kill said. “He had a couple balls tipped on the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t have an awful lot to do with that. …When you get the ball tipped at the line of scrimmage, I’m not going to throw him under the bus on that. I think he’d like to have one decision that he made (an interception over the head of Landon Cox) back.”
Grady, who supplanted two-year incumbent Chandler Harnish after a training camp competition for the job, finished the night 14 of 29 passing for 93 yards. He also rushed for 62 yards, including the Huskies’ only touchdown, a 1-yard plunge.
Grady is now 5-1 as an NIU starter.
“We moved the ball,” Kill said. “We just got to get the ball in the end zone, and we got to make some plays when it’s time.”
The NIU offense stuck to mostly short passing routes in the first half but opened up the playbook in the second half.
Grady seemed to hit a stride when he had completions of 13 and 22 yards in a three-play span. But on the same drive, Grady overthrew two receivers for what looked like would-be touchdowns, and the Huskies’ offense failed to find the end zone after taking firstand goal from the 2-yard line.
But Grady’s touchdown clipped the Cyclones' lead to 17-10 and gave the Huskies a chance late into the fourth quarter.
“I think we, as an offense, did very well,” Grady said after the Huskies out-rushed Iowa State 156 yards to 138. ”First game, you’re gong to have mistakes.
“It’s the start to get us going. We’ll see what we’re capable (of). We've got players that are able to make plays. I think we have the chance to do something special this year.”
Kill said he didn’t make a “big announcement” to the team about Grady winning the starting job, rather that his players knew it was coming after Grady continued to take snaps with the first team after training camp.
“(NIU quarterbacks coach) Jimmy (Zebrowski) talked to DeMarcus, and DeMarcus had been repping with the first group,” Kill said. “If we had thought something different, we’d have done things differently through the week.”
And despite Grady’s less-than-stellar performance against a Big 12 Conference opponent, Kill doesn't appear ready to do things differently next week in preparation for NIU's Sept. 11 home opener against North Dakota.
“I’ll evaluate him when we get in and watch film and teach him some things,” Kill said.
New faces: Four NIU freshmen played in Thursday's season opener: Jimmie Ward (S), Joe Windsor (DE), Akeem Daniels (WR) and Mathew Sims (K). None are able to redshirt the 2010 season.
Slim pickings: Making his first start of his career, weakside linebacker Tyrone Clark intercepted the first pass of his career during the third quarter and returned the pick 30 yards. Junior safety Tracy Wilson also intercepted the first pass of his career.