NIU players shocked by Kill's departure

Jerry Kill went 23-16 and led the Huskies to bowls in all three of his seasons in DeKalb. AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid

Northern Illinois junior quarterback Chandler Harnish first heard Jerry Kill was leaving the Huskies to become the head coach at Minnesota when his brother called him shortly before Sunday’s football banquet.

“I didn’t really believe him,” said Harnish, who has started throughout Kill’s three seasons at Northern Illinois. “He said he was doing some reading online. I started to get more texts and calls from people. It’s become more real I guess.

“It’s still a feeling I really can’t comprehend right now. Disappointment. I’m shocked, but we’re moving on. We still have a bowl to focus on, and that’s what we’re thinking about. It’s time for guys like me and Alex [Kube] to lead our guys.”

Kube, a senior linebacker, was just as surprised by Kill’s departure, but he felt the Huskies’ focus had to be more on their Dec. 18 game against Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl.

“We need to do what we’ve been doing,” Kube said. “This is a situation people like and some people don’t. I was recruited here, and I was given a scholarship to help this program win games and help this program get better and to be a leader.

“That’s what I’m going to continue to do whether the coaching staff is here or not because I owe that to a lot of people. I owe that to Chandler. I owe it to my teammates to make sure I’m going to continue to lead and make sure this team continues to roll. We’ll be more enthusiastic, and we will be ready to play that game.”

Kube and Harnish have gone through one Northern Illinois coaching change before. Both were around for Joe Novak’s final season in DeKalb. Harnish will play for his third different head coach next season.

“It’s going to be a different situation,” Harnish said. “Not so much the head coach; we don’t really know the situation yet, but possibly a fourth quarterback coach. I’m at the point now where I’m mature, and I try to take advantage of every opportunity and grasp it and learn from it.”

The Huskies will play in their third consecutive bowl game, but haven’t won one since 2004. They lost to Louisiana Tech 17-10 in the Independence Bowl in 2008 and 27-3 to South Florida in the International Bowl last season.

“It’s unbelievably important [to win this year],” Kube said. “I have a horrible taste in my mouth, and I want to get the taste out. I know the younger guys around me don’t want to send me out in a bad way. We’re going to turn this into a positive situation.”