DeKALB – They've received plenty of praise, but after Northern Illinois' first fall scrimmage a week ago the Huskies offensive line didn't feel like they deserved any.
So they stayed in the film room a little longer this past week.
"We're a prideful group. We like to think we're a nasty group," senior center Scott Wedige said, noting the group didn't look particularly nasty in the first scrimmage. "We really took it upon ourselves this week to make sure we got better."
It showed during NIU's second scrimmage Saturday, the 20th and final practice of coach Dave Doeren's first fall camp. Led by its linemen, the Huskies offense had eight touchdowns during its last extended live-contact session before its Sept. 3 opener against Army.
"It just feels great to finally have it click," Wedige said. "At the beginning of camp, the defense was getting the best of us. And then (offensive line coach Rod) Carey really stressed, 'Just take one thing off the film a day (to improve).' And you know, it was a culmination of the whole camp. It all came together today."
That much was evident for the entire hour-long practice.
Quarterbacks Chandler Harnish, Jordan Lynch and Matt McIntosh finished 20-for-25 and combined for 394 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman receiver A.J. Sebastiano had a breakout practice, catching three passes for 133 yards and potentially playing himself out of a redshirt this fall. Fellow freshmen Juwan Brescacin and Tommylee Lewis each caught a touchdown.
Asked how the defense did when it was over, senior linebacker Jordan Delegal offered a qualifier.
"Well, we're not going against any powder puffs on offense," Delegal began.
No, they aren't. And the defense had a few key starters resting on the sidelines, including defensive end Sean Progar and middle linebacker Pat Schiller. But for 19 practices, they had looked like the better unit.
Not Saturday. Doeren said fall camp's final day was the offense's best.
"I think today was a good culmination," Doeren said. "I know our offense will feel good about where they stood today when they left the field. There was a lot of production at a lot of different positions. I think they protected our quarterback well. There were some big plays, explosive plays."
Execution was not perfect. The offense had five penalties, three false starts. Coaches likely found other mistakes when they reviewed film, including a pair of interceptions.
But there were glimpses of what this offense, the top returning in the Mid-American Conference, could look like this fall. The no-huddle's speed, the offensive line's dominance, it was all on display. With less than two weeks until Army, there are enough film sessions to improve the rest.
"Today was awesome," Wedige said. "It's the first step in a long journey. I can't wait for Army. Hopefully, it will be just like today, a lot of touchdowns."