NORTHERN ILLINOIS FOOTBALL: Harnish's hard work paying off for Huskies
BY LACY J. BANKS firstname.lastname@example.org
Starting junior quarterback Chandler Harnish's road to recovering from a serious knee injury this spring was not a long and winding one.
Once he opted out of surgery, got help from the training staff and worked his butt off in rehab, that road was relatively short and sweet.
So when he starts and leads the Northern Illinois Huskies (3-2) in a Mid-American Conference smackdown against the Temple Owls (4-1) Saturday morning in Huskie Stadium, fans won't be the only ones impressed at how he twisted fate to his favor.
''I'm pretty amazed at what has happened over the last six or seven months,'' the 6-2, 219-pounder said. ''My future was kind of up in the air and I didn't know what was going to happen. But you've got to give credit to our training staff, [trainer] Kammy Powell, and our strength and conditioning coach, Eric Klein. They've done a great job working with me in getting the knee back into playing condition.''
When Harnish led the Huskies to a 50-14 rout of the Akron Zips on Saturday, his competence was exceeded only by his confidence as he completed 16 of 21 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns. NIU amassed 520 yards of total offense behind Harnish's field generalship.
''If you look at the numbers, it was probably my most efficient game,'' Harnish said. ''But all around, it was just a well-played game by our team defensively, special teams-wise, offensively, and I've just got to give credit to my coaches and the guys around me for putting me in those situations.''
NIU coach Jerry Kill is more than pleased at how Harnish, who sat out the season opener, has progressed so rapidly.
''You're only as good as your quarterback,'' Kill said. ''And our quarterback is playing real, real good football right now. Any time you can score eight or nine possessions in a row, you're going to win a lot of games.
''Chandler has really grasped things. He's making fewer mental errors. He's throwing the ball where receivers can catch it. At Akron, he threw some balls that were hard to cover. At the same time, our receivers helped make him look good because they made some great catches.''
As for Harnish's confidence-
''Compared to last year, my confidence is 10 times greater,'' he said. ''Experience is probably the key. Just playing more and more football games has allowed me to build that confidence. Also, [quarterbacks] coach Jim Zebrowski has really helped develop me as a quarterback, and I'm real excited about what we've got going.''