Turnovers plague NIU in loss

By David Lance

Overcome by fumbles and the play of running back Jason Davis, the NIU football team lost 37-3 to Louisiana Tech Saturday night at Huskie Stadium in front of 9,519 fans.

The Huskies had won 14-straight games at home, tying the school record.

The Bulldogs recovered four Huskie fumbles and scored after every one for 20 points. LTU’s Davis rushed for two touchdowns and a game-high 148 yards on 27 carries. NIU’s record dropped to 1-4.

“Obviously, we had some turnovers, and turnovers always hurt you,” NIU head coach Charlie Sadler said. “I thought we’d score against them.

“Defensively, I’m not sure that we played quite as hard as what we did in the first half.”

Neither team was able to get in the end zone in the first half, as the score ended 3-3. The Bulldogs (4-1) had chances to put up more points in the half, but their kicker, Chris Boniol, missed field goals of 26, 44 and 46 yards.

“Offensively, it was a slow start for us,” Bulldogs’ head coach Joe Raymond Peace said. “I was pleased with our offense in the second half.

“As long as our defense was in control of the game, I thought our offense would eventually kick in.”

The Bulldogs’ offense kicked in in the third quarter. After a 31-yard field goal by Boniol at the outset of the second half, LTU defensive end Steve Wilson recovered quarterback Stacey McKinney’s fumble at NIU’s 23.

Four plays later, Davis scored from one yard out. Davis ran the ball on all four plays of that series for a sum of 28 yards.

NIU’s Dave Jensen punted after his team’s next drive stalled at its 18. The Bulldogs took over at NIU’s 44 and after gains of 15, 6, 10 and 3 yards, their starting quarterback, Gene Johnson, hit flanker Paul Bland for a 10-yard touchdown. Boniol’s PAT made it 20-3.

On NIU’s next possession, Wilson this time caused McKinney to fumble with a blindside hit. Defensive end, Shannon Cornelius, grabbed the ball and was tackled at NIU’s 12. After three plays, Boniol kicked a 27-yard field goal.

At 11:43 of the fourth quarter, and eight plays after LTU stopped NIU on fourth down, LTU’s Davis dropped a handoff from new quarterback Sam Hughes, picked it up on one bounce and added another one-yard TD. Boniol’s extra point made it 30-3. In the drive, Davis carried five times for 27 yards.

“He’s one of the best backs we’ve come up against all year,” NIU linebacker Steve Henriksen, who led his team with 21 tackles, said.

For the game, LTU netted 432 yards, 237 of them rushing and 195 passing. Johnson connected on 13-of-27 passes for 132 yards. Leading in receiving for the Bulldogs was split end Corey Parham, who had six receptions for 73 yards. LTU had four sacks.

NIU had 167 net yards, 109 of them rushing and 58 passing. McKinney was 2-for-9 in passing for 19 yards. He was replaced by Rob Rugai in NIU’s last possession of the game.

Fullback Adam Dach led the Huskies in rushing with 77 yards on 14 carries. Tight end Raymond Roberts led the team in receiving with 46 yards on four receptions. Rob Wagner recorded the Huskies’ only sack.