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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Quarterback carousel not enough in Huskies’ loss

Cameron Whittington
NIU offensive line sets against Tulsa defensive line during Saturday’s game at the Huskie Stadium. On Saturday, the Huskies were defeated by Tulsa 22-14. (Cameron Whittington | Northern Star)

DeKALB – A change at quarterback was not enough to get the Huskies offense rolling, as NIU football (1-3) fell to the University of Tulsa (2-2) 22-14 Saturday. 

Saturday’s game was more of the same of what has been seen through the first three weeks of the 2023 season. The Huskies’ defense once again played at a high-level, recording three takeaways, but the Huskies’ offense had three giveaways and managed just 14 points. 

With the offense struggling to find its footing with redshirt senior quarterback Rocky Lombardi under center, NIU head football coach Thomas Hammock turned to redshirt sophomore quarterback Ethan Hampton after the first quarter.

“Our job is to protect the ball offensively and end every drive with a kick,” Hammock said. “We didn’t do that today, so we needed to change things up.”

Hampton completed 13 of his 23 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, but also threw two interceptions. Hammock did not announce who would be starting at quarterback next week against the University of Toledo. 

“We’ll evaluate those guys (Lombardi and Hampton) and see who gives us the best chance to win next week,” Hammock said. “That’s all we can do right now. We’ll watch the tape intently.”


Junior running back Justin Lynch also saw action under center in the second half. While Lynch, a former quarterback who converted to the running back position, did not attempt any passes, he rushed 10 times for 85 yards and a touchdown. 

“He (Lynch) provided a tremendous spark,” Hammock said. “He still has the ability to throw the football … he came in, ran hard, ran physical, made plays and gave us a spark in the run game. We have to continue to do things like that so we can run the ball more effectively.”

After trailing 9-7 at halftime, the Huskies found themselves ahead 14-12 heading into the fourth quarter thanks to an interception from redshirt sophomore safety Muhammed Jammeh and a rushing touchdown from Lynch.


NIU’s defense held strong for most of the game, allowing just 10 offensive points through the first three quarters, but ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, surrendering another 10 points in the final 15 minutes. 

“Our defense played until the fourth quarter, and in the fourth quarter we played hard,” junior safety Nate Valcarcel said. “Earlier this week in the press conference, we talked about turnovers, and today we got a couple turnovers to get the ball back to the offense.” 

After Tulsa scored 13 unanswered points, NIU still had a chance for a game-tying drive with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Huskies drove 57 yards down the field before Hampton was intercepted for the second time, sealing the victory for the Golden Hurricane.

“Our offense needs to pick up the defense,” Lynch said. “I think we have the best defense in the MAC, and we need to pick it up on offense to help them out.” 


The Huskies’ next game will be their first conference game of the season. NIU will take on the University of Toledo at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Glass Bowl Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPNU and live stats will be available via StatBroadcast.

“If we had this level of defense my whole time, we would have won a lot more games,” Hammock said. “But now, all of a sudden, we can’t play offense which is unacceptable and unexplainable. So we have a week to figure it out going into conference play next week.”

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