Remember on the playground when you had to play against the older kids?
That’s what Central Michigan will be doing against Northern Illinois.
CMU head coach Dan Enos plans on playing 10 freshmen at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. Meanwhile, NIU (2-2) starts 10 seniors on offense alone.
“They have seniors everywhere,” Enos said. “They have 16 fifth-year seniors and they’re two-deep on both sides of the ball. I think we have two fifth-year seniors in our whole program.”
The CMU defense is seeing a lot of true freshmen because of injuries and a lack of performance. NIU’s offensive line has four fifth-year seniors and one redshirt junior. The average weight of the starting line for NIU is 307 pounds.
“It’s tough to play defensive tackle at 18-years-old against a fifth-year senior that’s been lifting weights and in that program for five years,” Enos said.
Quarterback Chandler Harnish is in his fifth year at NIU. He’s rushed for 285 yards and five touchdowns. Harnish has been efficient through the air, throwing for 861 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception.
“He’s a great athlete,” said CMU safety Jahleel Addae. “He’s a duel-threat guy that can throw and run. He throws a high percentage ball, we’ll have to challenge every pass.”
The Huskies were exposed by Cal Poly’s triple-option offense last week. NIU won 47-30, but the Mustangs rushed for 297 yards.
CMU sophomore quarterback A.J. Westendorp showed he can run against Michigan State when he found an opening for a 15-yard gain on a scramble.
“Cal Poly runs the option so it’s tough to compare to,” Westendorp said. “I haven’t looked at that, meaning anything pointing toward me playing. We’ll see what coach calls in the game.”
NIU head coach Dave Doeren is confident in his team. It went 8-0 in the Mid-American Conference last year. He’s liked what he’s seen on both sides of the ball.
“The guys play with a lot of effort, they have a lot of passion for the game,” Doeren said. “We have a lot of talent. The offensive line takes pride on getting a body on a body. The defense is young and has had trouble, but it’s fun watching them grow.”
Doeren thinks his team is young, but it might not be compared to CMU’s youth. Doeren is sending out only one redshirt freshman in his starting defense, while the Chippewas have an abundance of true freshmen.
“We don’t have that luxury right now (playing upperclassman), we got to play to win,” Enos said. “Right now a lot of our best players are freshmen.”