Created:Saturday, April 20, 2013 6:46 p.m.CDT
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Carey impressed with defense in first Huskie Bowl

By STEVE NITZ - snitz@shawmedia.com

DeKALB – Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey hadn't gotten a chance to look at the film of Saturday's Huskie Bowl prior to speaking with reporters.

But on the surface, Carey felt his defense had a good afternoon after watching Joe Tripodi's Black team defeat Kevin Kane's Cardinal squad, 31-7.

The Cardinal and Black teams combined to pick off five passes, two courtesy of Team Tripodi senior corner Sean Evans. Cardinal defensive end Stephen O'Neal had a sack and a fumble recovery. Safety Dechane Durante and linebacker Rasheen Lemon also had picks for the Black team, while Paris Logan had a pick for the Cardinal squad.

This fall, the Huskies will have to replace seven starters from last year's defense.

"My feel out there is that the defense made some plays," Carey said. "There's always a double-edged sword to this thing in spring, because defense is making plays, that means that the offensive guy didn't go up and get that ball out so it's not a pick," Carey said. "... My gut right now tells me the defense just had a really good day."

When it comes to the secondary, Carey said he's been pleased with the way the group has progressed this spring.

"We have high expectations for them," Carey said. "And right now, they're on their way to meeting those."

Kane impressed with LB core: NIU linebackers coach Kevin Kane, who was the losing coach on Saturday, said he feels great about what the Huskies have at the linebacker spot.

Kane mentioned that junior outside linebacker Jamaal Bass had the best spring of his career, and also seemed impressed with the play of middle linebacker Boomer Mays and outside linebackers Lemon and Michael Santacaterina.

"Those are four guys I know that, coming into the season, I feel happy about," Kane said. "We'll see, we've got to develop some more depth still."

A different kind of atmosphere: Compared to your normal spring game, there was a little more intensity Saturday.

"It's a lot of fun. We picked our own teams," said Team Tripodi QB Drew Hare, who had an impressive day, going 7 of 10 for 143 yards and a touchdown. "Everyone's working towards one goal, that's just to beat the other team. We've been talking all week to each other, trash talk in the locker room, on the field. Just to get out here against each other, it's a good feeling."

Hare said he'd certainly be in favor if Carey decides to have a Huskie Bowl again next season.

"Absolutely," he said. "Of course, I'd love to do it again."

Given a full slate of games against Big Ten teams, which team finishes with the best record?
NIU
Purdue
Northwestern