A Conversation with a Cornhusker


Austin Yattoni

Illinois defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot (91) forces a fumble by Western Michigan running back Jamauri Bogan (32) during the the game against Western Michigan at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 17. The Illini lost 34-10.

By Kevin McCarthy, Assistant on-air sports editor


I have someone for you all to meet.

Together, we used to anchor our high school’s daily television news broadcast, watch every Blackhawks’ hockey game and duke it out in the “shinee” (mini-hockey) arena.

Now, we talk about sports on the radio. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the host of “In the Huddle” for KRNU 90.3 in Lincoln, Nebraska. His name is Jack Housenga, and he’s alright.

Kevin McCarthy: Hey Jack. My memory is failing me. What happened when the Huskers and Illini got together last year?

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Jack Housenga: A back-shoulder throw to Geronimo Allison on the 1-yard line is what happened! And I’ve tried to completely erase that Saturday from my brain, but you’re not helping, friend.

KM: Let’s talk about your quarterback, Tommy Armstrong. Here’s my question: Is his last name indicative of his ability to throw a football?

JH: He has done a really nice job throwing the football, but I think it actually may be more appropriate to call him Legstrong this year. Tommy has really taken it on himself to use his legs a lot more this season, and that run game has continued to bear fruit for this offense. Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf has done a really nice job of being creative with Tommy, allowing him to do a lot of different things, and I think that’s been a huge key to his success.

KM: Who should Illini fans look out for in the air attack?

JH: Well it seems like everywhere you look on this Nebraska offense, they have a playmaker there. Jordan Westerkamp has been rock solid at the receiver position for years now. But wideout Alonzo Moore has really stepped up his game this season — he’s proven to be a serious deep threat because of his speed. And then you can’t forget about guys like Stanley Morgan Jr., Brandon Reilly and De’Mornay Pierson-El. Just because there are so many wrinkles to this passing attack, plus with Armstrong playing at the top of his game, Illini fans may have cause for concern.

KM: Let’s talk X’s and O’s with this offense. What can we expect to see from Mike Riley’s team?

JH: Since this staff arrived, it’s been all about balance. And that’s really been the theme for this year’s group, too. Let’s remember, Nebraska returned its quarterback, its best running back and its top six pass catchers from a year ago. As a result of all that, there needs to be balance. There are so many different guys that this staff needs to find a way to get the football. It’s been a struggle at times, but I think they’re starting to figure it out.

KM: In your free time — between husking corn, whatever that means — what do you people in Nebraska do?

JH: Well you took half my answer, because husking corn and playing football are about the only two things to do. All jokes aside, Lincoln is a great city! Why haven’t you visited us yet?

KM: My Schwinn has been in the shop. I’ve had no way to get there.

Let’s talk about this Nebraska defense. They’ve done a great job of taking the football away. How have they done it?

JH: It’s all about confidence. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. This group couldn’t seem to fully grasp Mark Banker’s system last year. But now, they’re lining up in the right spots and running the defense how it was meant to be run. Talent was never an issue with this group. It was just the confidence they had in running the system.

KM: Do you miss Bo Pelini?

JH: Nah, not Bo. But I will admit that I miss Faux Pelini.

KM: Don’t we all. Fill in the blank.  Lovie Smith is blank. And Illinois football is blank.

JH: Lovie Smith is … our quarterback. Illinois football is … the poop emoji.

KM: Spot on. And finally, a score prediction for Saturday’s game?

JH: I’m going to go with 38-17. I have a feeling you’ll say 17 is a little high given the struggles of Wes Lunt and the Illinois offense, but this Nebraska defense, at least right now, is nothing I’m dying to write home about. But I do think Tommy Armstrong and company will put together a nice ballgame and cruise to an easy victory. How about you?

KM: 31-10, Huskers. These Illini are … how you say … bad. Before I let you go, can the Huskers win the Big Ten West? And, in a single sentence, why or why not?

JH: They can. They’ll need to beat the best to do it, but they definitely have enough talent there.

Closing thoughts

The Illini have — more or less than, but likely less than — a snowball’s chance in hell at winning this football game.

To quote our head football coach, “It’s as simple as that.”

Kevin is a junior in Media. [email protected]