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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 set for final home game of the season

Tim Dodge
Redshirt senior quarterback Rocky Lombardi throws a pass in an NIU football home game against Ball State University on Tuesday. The Huskies are set to defend home field on Tuesday against Western Michigan University. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

DeKALB – After dropping a 20-17 heartbreaker as time expired to Ball State University last week, NIU football (4-6, 3-3 MAC) will host Western Michigan University (4-6, 3-3 MAC) in its final home game of the 2023 season. 

NIU has fallen on hard times the last two weeks. After clawing back from a 1-4 start to get back to 4-4, the Huskies have dropped their last two games and now sit in fourth place in the MAC West Division. 

“We didn’t play well enough down the stretch to win that (Ball State) game, and we have to live with that,” said NIU football head coach Thomas Hammock. “But moving forward, we have a great opportunity this week against Western Michigan. Another home game against a MAC West opponent, it’ll be very competitive, they’re playing good football right now.”

The Broncos have been riding high lately, winning their last two games and scoring over 80 points in the process. Last week’s win over Central Michigan University lifted the Broncos past the Huskies, as they now sit in third place in the MAC West.

“We definitely just need to come together and talk,” senior defensive tackle Demond Taylor Jr. said. “Talking is a big part of defense, it reassures you your position and what you have to do on the field. As long as everybody knows what they have to do, we’ll be in a good position to beat this team.”


Tuesday’s game will be the last game at Huskie Stadium for 13 of NIU football’s seniors. The class of 2023-2024 is headlined by redshirt senior quarterback Rocky Lombardi and four-year starters senior defensive tackle James Ester and redshirt senior offensive lineman Nolan Potter. 

“I really like this senior class,” Hammock said. “You got a group of workers, a tough group, a tough-minded group. The thing that you appreciate as a coach is that when we’ve been faced with adversity, these guys have stayed the course. I think those lessons will help them in life.”

Both redshirt freshman Dane Pardridge and junior safety Nate Valcarcel praised this year’s senior class, saying that they learned a lot from their veterans

“Like Dane (Pardridge) said, for the seniors, Rocky, Ester, guys like those, they’ve been here and put sweat and tears into this program,” Valcarcel said. “To get a win for them, their last home game here at NIU, would be special. To win our last home game here would be great for the fans.”


Despite the MAC Championship being out of reach for both teams at this point of the season due to the University of Toledo’s domination of the MAC West, this is still a must-win game for both schools. 

“Everybody knows what’s at stake so who’s going to be the most excited team to play on Tuesday night,” Hammock said. “I’ll tell you what, we will be ready to play on Tuesday. We’re going to practice that way, and we’re going to go out and execute that way.”

All schools that win six or more games are eligible to compete in a bowl game. With both teams sitting at 4-6, they will each have to win their final two games to keep their hopes of playing in a bowl game alive.

“We attack every week the same, but just knowing that this is like a championship game, we want to come out and win this,” Taylor said. “So, I believe everybody is gonna be locked in and ready to go.”


The 13 seniors will be honored pre-game before the Huskies take on the Broncos at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Huskie Stadium. The game will be streamed on ESPNU, and live stats will be available via SideArm Stats

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