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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Football fails to capture Bronze Stalk

Huskies drop 3-3 in MAC play
Junior+cornerback+Javaughn+Byrd+attempts+to+block+a+Ball+State+University+field+goal.+The+Huskies+were+defeated+by+the+Cardinals+by+a+final+score+of+20-17+on+Tuesday.+%28Tim+Dodge+%7C+Northern+Star%29
Tim Dodge
Junior cornerback Javaughn Byrd attempts to block a Ball State University field goal. The Huskies were defeated by the Cardinals by a final score of 20-17 on Tuesday. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

DeKALB A 36-yard field goal set up by a forced fumble was the deciding factor in NIU football’s (4-6, 3-3 MAC) 20-17 loss against Ball State University (3-7, 2-4 MAC) on Tuesday. 

“As the head coach, it’s my responsibility to get the team ready to play. We didn’t make enough plays to get it done, and it’s as simple as that,” said NIU football head coach Thomas Hammock. “It’s a humbling football game – a humbling game. You go through ups and downs. But at the end of the day, we didn’t make enough plays.”

BSU protected its Bronze Stalk title after regaining the trophy in its 44-38 victory over the Huskies on Oct. 1, 2022. The Cardinals improved their all-time record against NIU to 25-25-2 and their Bronze Stalk rivalry record to 4-11.

COSTLY TURNOVERS

NIU’s defeat on Tuesday was compounded by 4 fumbles, 3 of which were recovered by BSU. 

The third turnover occurred with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter. With the game tied at 17-17, BSU forced a fumble on redshirt senior quarterback Rocky Lombardi to recover the ball on NIU’s 41-yard line. 

Although Lombardi was responsible for the game-deciding turnover, Hammock accepted his share of responsibility for Tuesday’s upset.

“You’re the quarterback, your job is to protect the ball and evolve the program,” Hammock said. “And we didn’t do that. As the head coach, that’s my responsibility.” 

SILVER LININGS

The competition for the MAC Championship was sealed when the University of Toledo secured a 31-13 victory over the University at Buffalo on Tuesday. NIU can still qualify for bowl game eligibility if it wins its remaining two games against Western Michigan University and Kent State University. 

Hammock preached that the path to bowl game eligibility hinges on the team’s unity and the ability to launch games with a strong start, all while maintaining discipline.

“We got to fight as a team,” Hammock said. “Great opportunity, another home game next week. We’ve got to start faster, we’ve got to play better, we’ve got to play cleaner. We want to give ourselves an opportunity to win.” 

After allowing a season-high 331 rushing yards against Central Michigan University on Tuesday, the Huskies gave up 186 yards against BSU. 

“Our defensive line had the opportunity to play their specific gaps and just be able to dominate on a one-on-one battle and just push their opponent back for everyone else on the backend to just be clear in vision,” said redshirt senior linebacker Tyler Jackson. 

UP NEXT

NIU will host the final week of MACtion against Western Michigan at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Huskie Stadium. Live stats will be available via SideArm Stats.

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