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The Quarterback Position: Unsettled at NIU since 2004

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aka the first of many quarterback polls

Haldi. Oh how we miss you Josh Haldi. Let's just review his stats from his first 3 years. In 2004, he injured his foot in and missed the first 4 games, but went on to finish the season.

  • 2002: 134 of 261 (51.3%) passing for 2,087 yds, 15-6 TD-INT ratio and 132.98 passing efficiency, 173.9 ypg
  • 2003: 199 of 336 (59.2%) passing for 2,544 yds, 25-9 TD-INT ratio and 142.02 passing efficiency, 212 ypg
  • 2004: 94 of 179 (52.5%) passing for 1,384 yds, 15-4 TD-INT ratio and 140.64 passing efficiency, 173 ypg

What stat do we miss the most? His 26-6 record as a starter. He even managed to do this under 3 different offensive coordinators (Roushar, Canada, Bond).

Let's review the quarterback position the last few years for the Huskies:

2005: Phil Horvath vs. Dan Nicholson

Horvath went from spot starter to statistical stud in 2005 until he broke his arm vs. CMU. Dan Nicholson came in and led the Huskies to their first win in Toledo in over 30 years. Nicholson's inexperience caught up to him as the Huskies fell victim to Akron in the MAC Championship and failed to make a bowl game. Horvath never passed the eye test, but seemed to get it done consistently throughout the of the season.

Final Stats:

Name Yr Pos G Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att Int TD Rating Att/G Yards/G
1 Phil Horvath JR QB 9 238 168 70.6 2001 8.4 8 18 159.46 26.4 222.3
2 Dan Nicholson FR QB 6 95 59 62.1 831 8.7 2 6 152.21 15.8 138.5

2006: Phil Horvath vs. Dan Nicholson II

Horvath's lack of pure passing ability was magnified with the graduation of Sam Hurd and Shatone Powers. As his stats started to rapidly regress, the fans called-for and got Dan Nicholson towards the end of the season. Both starters split time in the eerie "fog game" against Toledo, but the Huskies lost 13-17 as winning the conference flew out the window and our punishment was to head to San Diego and get destroyed by TCU.

Final Stats:

Name Yr Pos G Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att Int TD Rating Att/G Yards/G
1 Phil Horvath SR QB 11 269 157 58.4 1932 7.2 9 11 125.49 24.5 175.6
2 Dan Nicholson SO QB 7 115 60 52.2 648 5.6 6 5 103.42 16.4 92.6

2007: Dan Nicholson vs. Interceptions/Injuries/RYAN MORRIS

People want to completely blame injuries on the 2-10 2007 season. I blame the fact that we didn't have a scholarship QB to backup Dan Nicholson. Enough said. The reason? The transfer of Billy Lowe (+ others) and the fact Novak didn't want to burn the redshirts of Chandler Harnish or DeMarcus Grady. Very similar to how we didn't trot out Jordan Lynch or A.J. Hill this past year.

Final Stats:

Name Yr Pos G Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att Int TD Rating Att/G Yards/G
1 Dan Nicholson JR QB 9 248 151 60.9 1633 6.6 14 9 116.89 27.6 181.4
2 Ryan Morris SO QB 8 127 67 52.8 727 5.7 5 4 103.37 15.9 90.9

2008: Dan Nicholson vs. Injuries/Chandler Harnish

The grizzled veteran with his arm falling off vs. the young gun redshirt freshman. It was drama until the first series against Minnesota, where the world met Harnish as he dazzled them with 326 yds and 2 TDs. The next game, #12 went down with an ankle injury against WMU that kept him out of four games. That combined with the lack of experience Harnish had as a starter caused him to falter down the stretch.

Final Stats:

Name Yr Pos G Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att Int TD Rating Att/G Yards/G
1 Chandler Harnish FR QB 10 211 118 55.9 1528 7.2 9 8 120.73 21.1 152.8
2 Dan Nicholson SR QB 5 69 42 60.9 447 6.5 3 3 120.94 13.8 89.4
3 DeMarcus Grady FR QB 6 26 15 57.7 138 5.3 0 2 127.66 4.3 23.0

2009: Chandler Harnish vs. Injuries

As a whole, Harnish was putting together quite the season. That is, until Barry Church and the dastardly Toledo Rockets crashed in to his knee in Game 6. He came back, but never looked the same as the Huskies finished their final 3 games with losses against Ohio, CMU and finally USF in the International Bowl. Grady finally looked like a capable player behind center, but Harnish, when healthy, had a much firmer grip on running the offense.

Final Stats:

Name Yr Pos G Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att Int TD Rating Att/G Yards/G
1 Chandler Harnish SO QB 11 223 143 64.1 1670 7.5 6 11 137.94 20.3 151.8
2 DeMarcus Grady SO QB 10 43 25 58.1 280 6.5 2 3 126.56 4.3 28.0

So what does it all mean?

Success for the Huskies is congruent to having a capable QB play at his maximum ability throughout the majority of the season. Now, he doesn't have to do anything special, just be efficient and do his job. For quarterbacks, arguably the most important stat is the efficiency rating. Haldi never even had a completion % over 56, but his 140+ efficiency passing the ball hasn't been matched since the ridiculous offense of 2005. The all-time leader in passing efficiency? Tim Tebow's 170.8 from 2006-09. Yeah.

I'm empathetic for Chandler Harnish's 2009 season. He was on his way there to becoming good, but the knee injury + inexperience at WR really hurt him down the stretch. Magnified in the bowl games were the inaccuracies that he had throwing the ball. It was either just a little to far or a just a little too short for the skill players to catch, which is unacceptable in division I football.

Maybe he was coming around before the injury, maybe he wasn't. The fact is that his knee is still messed up and we may never know exactly what he will have to offer for the 2010 Huskies. The huge difference between Harnish and Haldi is the fact that Haldi returned to 100% in 2004 and was a pocket passer, not a spread/running QB.

The other fact is that when we find a capable QB that can play the whole season, then we will have a successful season. The running backs and the offensive line can't do it all. They certainly helped, but there were times that Turner, Wolfe, etc could be stopped and the quarterback had to step up and win games.