Huskies face struggling Pirates

By Carl Ackerman

As the season draws to a close for NIU’s football squad, the Huskies will be looking to extend their hot streak against a struggling East Carolina team.

In the midst of a four game winning streak, NIU (6-3) will travel to ECU (4-6) for a 12:30 p.m. matchup Saturday.

The Pirates have lost four of their last six games and head coach Bill Lewis is hoping his team can turn things around for the season finale.

“I hope we can play up to our level of capabilities. We’ve had a difficult time doing that this season. Most of the games we’ve plaed have been far below our expectation,” he said.

Although ECU has compiled six losses, only two have resulted in more than a ten-point loss.

Despite the slumping season, ECU’s junior linebacker Robert Jones made national headlines two weeks ago after ECU’s 56-32 trouncing over Cincinnati. He was named Sports Illustrated’s National Defensive Player of the Week. He was credited with 17 total tackles, including 11 solo stops. He returned an interception 15 yards for a touchdown and blocked a UC field goal attempt.

However, Lewis expects a lot more from his defense as well as a thorough offensive performance to get by the Huskies.

“We must establish consistency and continuity with our offense. Northern has such an explosive offense all we can do is limit their effectiveness. We need to control the time of possession, and we must put points on the board. It would be foolish to think we could shut Northern Illinois down. We want to control the offense, and take the big play away from them,” Lewis said.

If the Pirates plan on sinking NIU’s attack, one thing they will have to do is snap the Huskies wishbone attack. One major contributor to its success has been quarterback Stacey Robinson.

“In my opinion, I think Stacey Robinson ranks among the greates wishbone quarterbacks to ever play the game,” Lewis said.

ECU’s quarterback junior Jeff Blake is in his first starting season for the Pirates after performing the back-up role last season. Lewis said Blake is learning and developing with each game, however, Blake suffered an ankle sprain in a recent game and plays with a slight limp.

ECU’s most recent game was a 24-17 triumph over Memphis State. Pirate running Cedric Van Buren rushed for 111 yards on 17 carries and caught two passes for 99 yards which includes the game-winning 74-yard reception from Blake with 2:32 left in the game.