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posted: 8/29/2012 9:46 PM

Iowa's program one to emulate for NIU

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Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren played at Drake from 1990-93, a period in which Iowa made its most recent trip to the Rose Bowl.

So Doeren knows all about the Hawkeyes and what they mean to the state of Iowa.

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"In the Des Moines Register, it was always three or four pages of Hawkeyes news," Doeren said at his weekly news conference. "That was when coach (Hayden) Fry was at the peak of his career. They got a ton of news and we always felt like the redheaded stepchild being at Drake."

Doeren insisted he's not bitter about Drake's sports section deficit, but he does regard Iowa's program as one to emulate. NIU opens its season Saturday against the Hawkeyes at Soldier Field (2:30 p.m., ESPNU).

The Huskies are hoping a veteran defense will keep them competitive while the offense finds its legs. NIU's only returning starters on offense are receivers Martel Moore and Perez Ashford. There's also a new offensive coordinator, Mike Dunbar.

"We're not quite sure what to expect right now," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "They have a new coordinator, a lot of new faces, good receivers, good tight ends."

Iowa (7-6 last season) is replacing several starters on both sides of the ball, but returns quarterback James Vandenberg, who threw for 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. Mark Weisman, a former walk-on from Stevenson High School, is listed as Iowa's starting fullback.

The Hawkeyes' most significant change might be in the coaching staff. During Ferentz's first 13 seasons at Iowa, he used the same offensive and defensive coordinators. Now he's got new people at both spots -- Greg Davis on offense and Phil Parker on defense.

All-new NIU offense:

The style of play shouldn't change much from last year, but Northern Illinois' offense will be a complete mystery. The Huskies have new starters at quarterback, running back and the entire offensive line.

They do have confidence in junior quarterback Jordan Lynch, who saw action in 22 games as the backup to NFL draft pick Chandler Harnish. Lynch has also played Soldier Field before, during his days at Mt. Carmel High School.

"I'm really excited to start," Lynch said. "It's been my dream ever since I was little. I ran the show all summer. I've been in the film room. I learned a lot from Chandler, being his understudy for three years. So I'm ready."

The one returning starter on the offensive line, Logan Pegram, is out indefinitely with a broken leg. So Lynch will play behind five first-time starters on the line. NIU plans to go with sophomore left tackle Tyler Loos, junior right tackle Matt Krempel and three redshirt freshmen in the middle -- Aldan Conlon, Andrew Ness and Matthew Killan.

"We have a talented offensive line," coach Dave Doeren said. "They learn fast and they have good chemistry. (Losing Pegram) hurt us from an experience standpoint but I really like the guys that are playing, too.

"I don't feel like we're in a position where we're saying, 'Oh my gosh, you're playing this guy?' That's not where we're at."

Soldiering on:

This is Northern Illinois' third game at Soldier Field. The Huskies lost to Iowa 16-3 in 2007 and were run over by Wisconsin 49-7 last year.

"I don't want to look up and see 21-0," Doeren said of this week's game. "I think if we can play with them and not beat ourselves, that's a huge key.

"To me, the best start for us would just be playing good football and not beating ourselves. We need to keep doing that until our players make some plays, because we do have some guys that are very electric when they touch the football."

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