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QB Harnish on top of his game as Huskies pursue MAC title

Harnish by the numbers

Passing

Year C-A-I Pct. Yds. TD Effic.

2008 118-211-9 .559 1528 8 120.7

2009 143-223-6 .641 1670 11 137.9

2010 157-238-5 .660 1949 17 154.1

Rushing

Year No. Yds. Avg. TD YPG

2008 118 539 4.6 4 53.9

2009 89 229 2.6 2 22.9

2010 119 761 6.4 5 69.2

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



DEKALB — Chandler Harnish is no gunslinger, but he’s doing just fine, thank you.

The Northern Illinois quarterback comes into tonight’s Mid-American Conference Championship game ranked sixth in the league in passing, averaging 177.2 yards-per-game. His 1,949 yards passing may be dwarfed by two others in the league who have topped 3,300 yards, but the NIU junior was voted first team all-conference this week by the league’s coaches.

“We would not be where we are as a football team without Chandler Harnish,” Northern coach Jerry Kill said. “Everyone on our team knows that and so do the people that watch our team play.”

A multi-dimensional threat, the 6-foot-2, 219-pound Harnish also ranks sixth in the league in rushing, averaging 69.2 yards per game. That helps him average 246.4 yards of total offense, which ranks third in the league.

More importantly to Kill and his staff, Harnish has been ruthlessly efficient directing the league’s most potent attack. He’s completed a league-best (among QBs with at least 200 attempts) 66 percent (157 of 238) of his passes. He’s tied for second in the league with 17 TD passes and has a league-low five interceptions.

Those numbers helped Harnish emerge as the league’s passing efficiency leader with a rating of 154.1. More importantly, it added up to a perfect 8-0 conference record for the 10-2 Huskies.

“I’ve said it before, I am just a completely different quarterback,” said Harnish, who started as a redshirt freshman and as a sophomore but had his seasons cut short by injury.

He came back from a knee injury that sidelined him for most of spring practice to regain his starting job the second game of the season and hit the ground running, literally and figuratively.

“It’s a team effort,” he said. “The offensive line has done a great job giving me protection to throw passes. The wide receivers have made great catches and the addition of (assistant) coach Jim Zebrowski has just been monumental in my development as a quarterback. I can’t give him enough credit.

“He always the same guy, very consistent, very relaxed and he always has fun. He doesn’t get tight, doesn’t get stressed out and just makes my job easier and I feel I play like that.”

Zebrowski joined the staff this season, coming in from Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater after P.J. Fleck left for Rutgers and QB coach Pat Poore moved to coach the wideouts.

“I think the bigger impact may be the relationship of Coach Poore and Jimmy (Zebrowski) working together,” Kill said. “They don’t have any egos. The reason Jimmy is here is because Coach Poore wanted him here, so we got him.”

Zebrowski had been on the SIU staff that Kill and many of his current coaches replaced in 2001. He stayed in touch and worked many summer camps with Poore.

“I was shocked (by Poore’s move),” Harnish said. “But they’re like best friends. They work well together.”

Kill has noticed.

“Shoot, both Coach Poore and Coach Zebrowski are half-kid anyway,” Kill said. “They don’t have bad days. I do, but they don’t. They think everything in the world is going to work and I think it rubs off on the kids.”

Meanwhile, Poore and the receivers have clicked, too. Nobody stars and puts up huge numbers but everybody contributes. Five have 17 or more catches and Harnish has connected with 14 different targets this season.

And as good as the offense has been — Northern has scored a school-record 471 points this season — Harnish thinks it can do even better, scary considering they’ve put up 59, 65 and 71 points the last three weeks.

“We don’t come close to executing as well as we can every week,” said the quarterback. “I think that’s a tribute to how good we can be.”

He’s the one who holds the keys.

“When I was a redshirt freshman, the game was at super speed,” he said. “Now, it’s just like practice.”



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