NIU Faces Long Afternoon in Happy Valley

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Byline: Joe Bush Daily Herald Sports Writer

Northern Illinois football coach Joe Novak says his team is improving.

Great news, especially since the Division I Huskies lost to a Division I-AA opponent last week.

You'll have to trust Novak's word, however, because today his 0-2 team lines up against No. 6 Penn State (2-0) at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa. at 11:20 a.m. Chicago time.

"Unfortunately, it may not show (today)," Novak said. "It'll show down the road."

The mismatch is obvious enough without statistics, but Novak cites the figures he deems most important pertaining to the Huskies' woes and wherefores.

"Nineteen of (Penn State's) 22 starters have been there at least four years," Novak said. "We have eight seniors on our team. (The Nittany Lions) are at a different stage."

While the Huskies (0-2) may not leave Happy Valley healthy, they arrive missing just two starters.

Six-foot-9, 333-pound right offensive tackle Chris Thornton sprained a knee before last Saturday's 17-0 loss to Western Illinois, while senior fullback Anthony Griffin will miss another four to five weeks with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. …