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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Offensive concerns persist, NIU loses big against Nebraska

Gaelen Morse | NIU Athletics
Redshirt senior quarterback Rocky Lombardi throwing a pass to a teammate against Boston College on Sep. 2. The Huskies defeated the Eagles 27-24 in overtime. (Gaelen Morse | NIU Athletics)

DeKALB – Offensive woes persisted as NIU football (1-2) dropped its away matchup to the University of Nebraska (1-2) in a 35-11 blowout on Saturday.

The Huskies’ offensive struggles extended into Saturday’s game, as they scored just 11 points, with a touchdown in the final moments. NIU was forced to boot away the ball on nine different occasions while racking up just 149 total yards.

In back-to-back weeks, NIU has struggled to employ a consistent ground attack, racking up just 26 yards on 22 carries. NIU went into halftime with just three rushing yards. 

“I think obviously a good defensive line played a factor in our inability to run the ball,” said head football coach Thomas Hammock. “But we got to go back and figure out the things we’re asking guys to do. Can they get it done? Do we have the right guys in the right spots? Especially inside so we have to look at the interior of our offensive line and evaluate.”

The Cornhuskers wasted no time in making their mark on the scoreboard, securing a 10-yard touchdown on their very first offensive possession. It took Nebraska just three minutes and six plays to march down the field. 

NIU’s defense rallied during Nebraska’s next offensive possession after a pack of Huskies jarred the ball free, setting up the offense within the red zone. Despite the ideal field position, NIU had to settle for a field goal.

“We had three opportunities, and we didn’t get it done, and that hurts,” Hammock said. “I mean, that’s a chance to get momentum, make it a 7-7 ball game and then play toe to toe from there.” 

Despite surrendering 35 points, the Huskies’ defense stood their ground in the first half. They compelled the Cornhuskers to punt the ball six times while permitting just one out of four third-down conversions in the first half.

Senior defensive tackle James Ester, who logged three tackles, weighed in on the defense’s effort. 

“I think there’s a lot of positive takeaways too,” Ester said. “We just need to be clear we need a complete football game. To this point, we haven’t really done it.” 

In his first start under center, Nebraska sophomore quarterback Heinrich Haarberg put on a clinic, completing 14 out of 24 of his passes for 158 yards and two passing touchdowns. Haarberg poured on an additional 98 yards and a touchdown as a runner. 

“Obviously, he’s a tremendous athlete who threw the ball a lot better,” Hammock said. “He’s developed as a passer as well, and he was smart.”


The Huskies will return home for their showdown against the University of Tulsa at 11 a.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium. The game will be streamed on ESPN+, and live stats will be available via SideArmStats.

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