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updated: 10/13/2011 10:25 AM

NIU showdown a quarterback showcase

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  • In Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois has a dual threat with his passing and running skills. The Huskies face another top quarterback on Saturday when Western Michigan's Alex Carder visits DeKalb in a big MAC game for both teams.

      In Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois has a dual threat with his passing and running skills. The Huskies face another top quarterback on Saturday when Western Michigan's Alex Carder visits DeKalb in a big MAC game for both teams.
    Photo courtesy of NIU Athletics

 
 

Among the Mid-American Conference stat leaders, Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder and Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish rank 1-2 in total offense, separated by less than 3 yards per game.

In the national stats, Carder actually has a larger lead and ranks 11th in the country in total offense, because the NCAA doesn't count the numbers from the Western Michigan-Michigan game, which was called due to bad weather before the end of the third quarter.

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Either way, Northern Illinois' showdown against WMU figures to be a quarterback showcase on Saturday at Huskie Stadium (2:30 p.m., CSN).

Harnish, a senior from Bluffton, Ind., gets more rushing yards. Carder, on the other hand, has one of the league's best receivers in Jordan White, who has caught at least 10 passes in four straight games.

"Two of the best quarterbacks in the country, I think, are playing in this game and one of the best wide receivers in Jordan White," NIU coach Dave Doeren said at his weekly news conference.

"You're going to see a lot of firepower on the field. I know both defenses have their hands full this week."

Even though this is just the third conference game, it's vital for Northern Illinois (3-3, 1-1). The Huskies already lost a league game at Central Michigan, so it can't afford to fall two games behind WMU, perhaps its strongest competition for the MAC West title.

"Both teams know that this game's been circled on each other's calendars for a while," Doeren said.

"They lost a heartbreaker to us last year (in Kalamazoo). It's a game that we need if we have any chance of going forward towards Detroit (for the MAC title game)."

Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit gave Harnish a backhanded compliment this week.

"That quarterback's a pain in the neck," Cubit said. "You can cover everybody and he just runs for 5 or 6 yards and gets a first down, moves the chains."

Harnish is the sixth-leading MAC rusher with 73.7 yards per game, a shade behind teammate Jasmin Hopkins.

Harnish allows the Huskies to run the option and also have a versatile passing attack. NIU leads the MAC in both rushing offense and passing efficiency.

"Chandler, to me, is everything we've wanted him to be here," Doeren said. "Off the field, on the field, socially, community service, the way that he handles himself, watches tape, and produces on Saturdays.

"He does everything we ask him to do. And the things that he doesn't do well, he takes blame for and fixes very quickly. He's tough."

Pro prospects:

NIU coach Dave Doeren was asked if he thinks the opposing quarterbacks in this game -- NIU's Chandler Harnish and Western Michigan's Alex Carder -- are NFL prospects.

"I'm sure they would probably tell you they are," he said. "I stopped trying to figure out the NFL quarterback thing a long time ago. They said Drew Brees wasn't good enough.

"Chandler can play. If he's in the right system, with the right coaches, he's going to produce. There's no doubt. Just watching their guy throw the ball at Western, I'd say the same thing."

Receiver to watch:

Western Michigan receiver Jordan White is averaging 11.2 receptions for 137.3 yards this season. Stopping him is a scary prospect for NIU's defense, which is allowing 34.7 points per game.

"A lot of his catches are uncontested, surprisingly enough," Doeren said. "As good as he is, there's a ton of plays where he's just sitting in zones by himself.

"That's something you can't let happen. He's played with this quarterback, so they have good chemistry, and they look for him."

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