Looking for a spark, Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey is turning to the quarterback who nearly sparked a comeback victory last week.
Carey also might have sparked a quarterback controversy.
The Huskies have won six consecutive MAC West Division championships but are 0-4 for the first time since 1999. Heading into their conference opener against Ball State Saturday on ASN, Carey named redshirt senior Anthony Maddie the starting quarterback over sophomore Ryan Graham.
“He’s a competitor and he wasn’t happy,” Carey said of Graham. “While he’s frustrated and upset by the decision that I made he also understands it and is going to be right there with his team preparing like he’s going to be the guy.”
Drew Hare was the guy until he was injured in a 48-17 loss to USF in Week 2. Graham stepped in, but he was benched last Saturday after an ineffective performance against Western Illinois, an FCS opponent.
Maddie replaced Graham late in the third quarter against WIU and nearly rallied the Huskies from a 28-7 deficit to a victory. NIU lost, 28-23, but Maddie scored points with Carey.
“The quarterback spot needs to be productive for us and Anthony certainly came in and was productive,” Carey said Tuesday. “Wasn’t productive enough but was more productive. That’s the thing about that spot. You have to move the offense and it certainly moved with him in there more than Ryan. So that’s why we’re making the switch.”
In August, when Hare was healthy, Carey switched Maddie to wide receiver
Maddie was fine with it. Anything to get back on the field.
He hasn’t played much since his senior year of high school in 2011. Maddie was an all-state quarterback at Aurora Christian in Illinois after passing for 3,799 yards and 52 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,117 yards and 18 TDs. He went to Western Michigan, redshirted his freshman year in 2012 then transferred to NIU in 2013 and did not play due to NCAA transfer rules.
In 2014, Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch departed after leading NIU to an unlikely Orange Bowl appearance, and Maddie battled Hare and Matt McIntosh for the starting job. Hare emerged as a starter while Maddie settled into the backup role. He played sparingly in nine games.
In 2015, Maddie finally felt comfortable with everything. “I feel I know everything about this offense,” he said, “and I’m ready to go.”
But back surgery ended his season before it started and he didn’t play a snap. Meanwhile, Graham stepped in when Hare went down with a season-ending injury against Toledo in Week 9. Graham led the Huskies to a late touchdown in a 32-27 upset victory against the 20th-ranked Rockets.
The Huskies won the MAC West but lost their last three games after Graham was injured in the regular-season finale against Ohio.
With Hare and Graham back healthy this season, Maddie moved to receiver, where the Huskies already feature one of the nation’s best in Kevin Golladay. “He’s a senior and he wants to get on the field,” Carey said, “and we felt this was the best way for him to get on the field.”
For now, Maddie is back on the field and under center.
“The competition certainly isn’t done by any stretch of the imagination,” Carey said, emphasizing the need for production. “We will take it case by case on that deal. Certainly expect Anthony to have a good game.”
Carey hopes Maddie can spark another turnaround for the Huskies. They were 2-3 last season before a victory against Ball State kindled a six-game winning streak.
Oh, one more thing.
Carey hopes he doesn’t have to use both quarterbacks.
“I don’t want to, I can tell you that,” he said. “I want play one.”
Right now, Maddie is finally the one.