DeKALB – Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill said last week that fans are attracted to winners.
NIU fans seemingly are buying in to the potential of these Huskies (5-2, 3-0 Mid-American Conference) as a season-best crowd of 21,230 packed Saturday's homecoming game, a 45-14 NIU win over Buffalo.
"It's one of those things where you always want a great crowd, but on homecoming it means a little bit more," athletic director Jeff Compher said. "I was glad to have the students, especially, come out and support us today."
Those NIU students, who receive free admission upon showing a student identification card, almost filled the east side of the stadium, which was left half-barren during the Huskies' hyped matchup with MAC East Division favorite Temple last week. Only 14,011 showed up to watch NIU catapult itself as the MAC front-runner with a 31-17 win over the Owls.
Compher said the athletic department has "got to figure out what it takes to get our students" to Huskie Stadium.
"I think we're trying," Compher said. "We're working with them. We're communicating with them probably better than we ever have. I'm not really sure. I'm a bit puzzled as to why they didn't come out last week, but I think it's a combination of things. I don't know if it was the early time. ...The fact that the game was on TV. All those things I think could factor into it. But this week more than compensates for the crowd last week."
NIU adds fundraiser: NIU announced the hiring of fundraiser Mark Muhlhauser as associate athletic director for major gifts on Friday. Muhlhauser coordinated a fundraising plan to pay for Nittany Lion Softball Park, Penn State's $10.2 million softball complex that opens next year, and also worked with Compher at Washington, Muhlhauser's alma mater.
Compher acknowledged that Muhlhauser likely will work on a plan to secure funds to build an indoor practice facility for the NIU football team.
"We hope that as we develop a capital project that definitely he'll be focused on that (an IPF) as well as other major gifts we have," Compher said. "We're not ready to launch that yet, but when that project is launched, certainly that will be a major focus of Mark's job."
Jackson steps in: NIU senior Ed Jackson earned his first career start when he replaced Logan Pegram, who had started the first six games of the season at left guard.
NIU offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover said the Huskies started Jackson gave the team a more physical presence even though he has less starting experience than Pegram. NIU rushed for 281 yards against Buffalo.
"Ed may not go to the exact spot but he'll go 100 miles an hour and try to put someone on their wallet," Limegrover said. "We thought that was something that might charge us up a bit."