Top Priority for New NIU Football Coach Thomas Hammock Must Be Bowl Wins

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Thomas Hammock officially returned to Northern Illinois University after having spent the last five seasons as the running backs coach with the Baltimore Ravens. As a player, Hammock rushed for 2,432 rushing yards in his NIU career (1999-2002), which still ranks 13th all-time in school history. The currently 37-year-old Hammock returned to DeKalb, to serve as running backs coach under Joe Novak during 2005-06.

In Hammock’s first season, future Chicago Bear Garrett Wolfe rushed for 1,580 yards and 16 touchdowns in just nine games as NIU won the MAC West Division and appeared in the MAC Championship Game for the first time. The next season, Wolfe rushed for an national high 1,928 yards as the Huskies reached the Poinsettia Bowl.

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NIU makes history; Orange Bowl vs. Florida State

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Northern Illinois earned the first BCS bowl bid in school history where they will play Florida State in the Orange Bowl, SI.com reported Sunday. The official announcement won’t be made until later tonight.

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NIU QB Chandler Harnish: 2012 NFL Draft MR. IRRELEVANT

(Update: the Indianapolis Colts have selected NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish with the final pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. So the Colts bookend the draft, with QBs)

Northern Illinois University is kind of known as the mid-major version of “Tailback U.” The DeKalb, IL institution has produced some of the most electric runners (LeShon Johnson, Michael Turner, Garrett Wolfe and Chad Spann) in not just the MAC, but all of college football.

The Huskies are known for tailbacks, not quarterbacks. However, they might have the best in school history in Chandler Harnish, who like the halfbacks mentioned above, is great at running the ball.

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Wisconsin Gets New Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada from Northern Illinois

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You could make a case that Wisconsin had the greatest running back and quarterback tandem in college football history. Quarterback Russell Wilson broke the season passer rating record, and tailback Montee Ball tied the season record for touchdowns. The Badgers were the first team to ever have a player run for 30 TDs, and another player pass for 30 TDs.

Production like that will no doubt attract attention for the offensive coordinator, and Paul Chryst parlayed the astronomical numbers he generated into a new head coaching gig at Pittsburgh.

Today, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema named Matt Canada his replacement.

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College Football 77 in 77: #74 NIU Huskies

NORTHERN-ILLINOIS

From a mid-major standpoint, Northern Illinois University has become “Running Back U.” (Leshon Johnson, Garret Wolfe, Michael “the Burner” Turner, Chad Spann). Sure, only Michael Turner is the only one from that group to do anything in the NFL, but these rushers all dominated the collegiate level.

NIU will look to keep that running game going in spades this season, with mobile QB Chandler Harnish (although he’ll likely need to make more plays with his arm than he did in 2010, the Huskies were 85th in passing last year) with Jasmin Hopkins and Jamal Woble filling in for Spann.

It’s also a regime change campaign, as Jerry Kill parlayed his record setting 2010 (the Huskies won 11 for the first time ever in ’10) into a new gig leading the Minnesota Golden Gophers. It’s funny that I rate his old team higher than his new one, even though going from Dekalb to the Twin Cities, the MAC to the Big Ten, is a huge step up.

By Paul M. Banks

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Northern Illinois goes for School Win Record in MAC Championship

NORTHERN-ILLINOIS

Northern Illinois is essentially the mid-major embodiment of “Tailback University.” LeShon Johnson, Michael “the Burner” Turner, Garrett Wolfe are some of the recent names that come to mind. And Chad Spann, the current running back, has already broken the school record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 20. And he still has two games left to play.

Tonight the 10-2, (8-0 in the MAC) #24 NIU Huskies will battle the Miami of Ohio Red Hawks for the MAC Championship of college football. With both this and a bowl game remaining, it’s safe to say this will go down as the greatest Huskies team of all time. They are 17.5 point favorites and nationally ranked for the first time in 7 years. And they’ve done all this quietly.

Almost too quietly.

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