Created:Monday, December 20, 2010 5:30 a.m.CST
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Storybook ending for Huskies; change awaits

By JOHN SAHLY - jsahly@daily-chronicle.com
Northern Illinois interim head coach Tom Matukewicz is carried on the shoulders of Jake Coffman (54) and D.J. Pirkle (98) after the Huskies beat Fresno State, 40-17, in the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl on Saturday at Bronco Stadium on the Boise State University campus in Boise, Idaho. (AP photo)

BOISE, Idaho – Games like Saturday are why Jake Coffman returned for his senior season.

The Marine Corps veteran and Northern Illinois defensive end was thrilled to go out on a high note with a career-high three sacks and a forced fumble in NIU's 40-17 dismantling of Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl at Bronco Stadium.

"It's a dream come true," Coffman said. "When I came back, I just wanted the opportunity to come back out and be around the guys. I didn't care if I had one tackle. I didn't care about stats. It was just being around the guys again. That's what I missed.

"I couldn't be more proud of the team and the coaching staff and how we came together."

The three sacks on Saturday gave Coffman 9 1/2 on the season and 20 for his storied career. Coffman's 9 1/2 sacks this season are the sixth-most in a year in school history. His 20 total sacks rank fourth all time at NIU.

Not bad for a former walk-on.

When he originally left football in January, Coffman said he likely would pursue a career path toward the Department of Homeland Security. Fighting back some emotion in the postgame news conference, Coffman said Saturday's game would be his last.

"Yeah, my old body is about done," Coffman said. "I knew this was my last one and I ... yes, it's the right way to go out."

Interim head coach Tom Matukewicz said Coffman's role as a leader on the team helped bring the Huskies together after the turmoil of the previous two weeks.

"He's fought for our freedom," Matukewicz said before asking Coffman, "Are you single? I'm just telling you right now, if you're a lady, you need to get his number because he is a legitimate man and he'll take care of you."

With Coffman's departure and that of the rest of the seniors, including Mid-American Conference MVP Chad Spann, a period of transition awaits the Huskies.

New head coach Dave Doeren will begin his duties after Wisconsin completes the Rose Bowl against TCU on Jan. 1. Doeren told the ESPN broadcast team at the Humanitarian Bowl via a phone interview that he has a few of the pieces in place for his staff but was waiting to announce it. Saturday's offensive coordinator and running backs coach Rob Reeves and quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski both told the Daily Chronicle on Saturday night that they would join Jerry Kill's staff in Minnesota.

"I've been with coach Kill, I played for him, I've been with him for a long time," Reeves said. "The loyalty, my family, and he means a lot to us. To be able to follow with him in his footsteps is an honor. Love it here, love the kids here and it's hard (to leave)."

"I'm going to miss all the kids, but I'm going to miss (quarterback) Chandler (Harnish)," Zebrowski added. "The players, because of them, they play so well, which gives you opportunities, which is unfair, but fair. And these kids understood that."

Footballscoop.com reported last week that Matt Canada will become the new offensive coordinator for the Huskies, with one source with knowledge of the situation telling the Daily Chronicle that Canada will assume that role. Canada spent six years as an assistant with the Huskies, including offensive coordinator duties in 2003, before becoming the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Indiana.

Matukewicz will stay on as the linebackers coach, with any further duties possible once Doeren's staff is set.

Who wins the Boca Raton Bowl?
NIU
Marshall