DeKALB – Ryan Graham is still in pain. Daniel Santacaterina is back starting at quarterback.
NIU football coach Rod Carey said Tuesday that Santacaterina will make his second straight start at 11 a.m. Saturday at Nebraska.
“He’s still got too much pain to go, so he’s out this week,” Carey said of Graham, who was hurt in a Week 1’s 23-20 loss to Boston College.
Santacaterina was 23 for 34 for 269 yards, an interception and three touchdowns in a 38-10 win against Eastern Illinois.
“Aside from two decisions, I thought he played a really outstanding game,” Carey said. “I’m excited for him and happy to see him execute the game plan.”
Nebraska (1-1) has allowed an average of 254 passing yards a game, and had four interceptions last week in a 42-35 loss to Oregon.
Huskies sophomore offensive lineman Ryan Roberts said the whole team believes in being prepared at all times to start, even if that player is a backup.
“It’s next man up, be prepared every week like you’re starting,” Roberts said. “I know Santa does. I know every backup does. If you don’t and someone goes down, bad things are going to happen. I think that’s why NIU has had such success with our backups. We’re preparing for adversity all the time. Santa I know is going to go out there and play his butt off.”
Official complaints: After the game Saturday, Carey expressed displeasure with the referees and said he would go through official channels to lodge his complaints.
On Tuesday, he said he talked to Bill Carollo, head of officiating for the Big Ten, Mid-American and Missouri Valley conferences, as well as MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher.
“I will not accept responsibility for all 15 of those penalties,” Carey said. “We’ve owned up to the ones that we do, and I worked through the right channels to get the point across of how that game was refereed. I said it – it was not reffed in the spirit of the game.”
David Siegle was listed as the referee for the game. A web search indicated Siegle and his crew have officiated Missouri Valley and Big Sky games over the past year.
NIU was called for 15 penalties for 194 yards. Eastern was flagged eight times for 75 yards, and two of those were targeting penalties that resulted in ejections.
“We certainly need to clean up our penalties, but there’s two sides to that,” Carey said. “If I felt like we did all 15, I’d own them. But there’s two sides, so we’re doing our part to take care of that.
“It’s not a personal thing, I just don’t think the spirit of the game was refereed right,” he said.
Beebe out 3 to 4 weeks: Carey confirmed that receiver Chad Beebe will miss the next three to four weeks. He suffered a shoulder injury and a concussion in the third quarter.
Bradley Dewberry was called for targeting on the play and ejected.
NIU was leading 31-3 in the final 3 minutes of the third quarter when Beebe was hurt. Carey said at that point it was too early to talk about taking starters out of the game.
“We certainly felt like early on, if we converted some of those field goals and touchdowns, those conversations would have happened earlier,” Carey said. “But that was still a football game. There’s a lot of time left and it felt like forever ’cause I think the third quarter was 57 minutes actual time. We certainly didn’t have those conversations until it was 38-10, and you’re in the 10-, nine-minute range.”
Recent Big 10 success: The Huskies are 3-1 in their past four games against Big 10 teams, and 0-2 all time vs. Nebraska.
They last played the Cornhuskers in 1990, a 60-14 loss. They lost the year before, 48-17. Both games were in Lincoln.
But the Huskies have had success against the Big 10. They picked up road wins against Iowa and Purdue in 2013, plus beat Northwestern in 2014. They lost, 20-13, to Ohio State in Columbus in 2015.
NIU is 7-37-1 against teams that currently make up the Big 10 conference.
Unblemished Nebraska: Nebraska has never lost to a MAC school.
The Cornhuskers are 5-0 all time against the MAC. Aside from the two wins against the Huskies, they beat Akron in 1997, Ball State in 2007 and Western Michigan in 2008. The closest game was a 41-40 win against the Cardinals.