Toledo Rockets burn Huskies

By Carl Ackerman

The mood inside NIU’s locker room after Saturday night’s football game at Toledo might best be compared to the mourning of a loved one at a funeral.

There was not one smile throughout the somber locker room and for good reason.

NIU had just been burned 23-14 by the fiesty Toledo Rockets in front of 21,154 fans.

Toledo’s red shirt freshman Troy Parker was the main actor in the NIU nightmare, which may have flushed away all hopes for a Huskie bowl bid.

The 5-foot-11 Parker set a UT record for most carries (40) which resulted in 205 yards. Parker cashed in two pivotal touchdowns and never lost yardage.

“I was amazed at my performance,” Parker said. “A lot of credit goes to the offensive line. I can’t thank them enough. They opened up holes for me on almost every play.”

Even NIU head coach Jerry Pettibone was amazed at the talented tailback who was in just his second career start.

“He ran hard all night long and just did a great job. I was impressed with his offense,” Pettibone said.

Although the campus talk has focused on NIU getting a bowl bid, the Huskies (1-2) with eight games remaining are slowly putting themselves up against a wall. They would have to win the rest of their games to equal last year’s 9-2 record. Pettibone is not worried about NIU’s bowl chances as much as the near future.

“We’re not going to worry about (a bowl) right now. We’ve got Kansas State to worry about. That’s the main thing we need to focus on,” Pettibone said.

NIU plays host to Kansas State Saturday night at 6:30 p.m.

UT (2-0) jumped out on top in the first quarter when Parker scored on an eight-yard run. NIU tied it at seven after quarterback Stacey Robinson scrambled for a 15-yard touchdown run. The NIU drive went 79 yards in 13 plays. After UT kicked a field goal, NIU’s Robinson shot a quick pop pass to Raymond Patterson for 12 yards and a touchdown with 1:16 left in the first half.

UT took control in the second half and never looked back. Kevin Meger scrambled for a touchdown early in the third for a 16-14 lead. Parker added an insurance touchdown on a two-yard run with 3:31 left.

“The Toledo defense did an excellent job analyzing the things we do best,” Pettibone said. “They took our quarterback out of the game. They would change their defense right at the last minute to hurt our reads on which direction to run the option play.”

Robinson felt he didn’t do his share.

“I didn’t do my part to execute the offense. (NIU) relied on my passing and it didn’t happen. We didn’t execute the offense the way we can,” said Robinson.

First-year UT coach Nick Saban gave Robinson and the team a lot of credit despite UT’s powerful defense.

“Obviously, NIU has a great offensive team. Stacey Robinson is a great quarterback. He throws the ball even better than in the past. It’s important that when we play a team like (NIU) that we control the ball on offense. I think the key in the second half was our field position. It stayed in our favor almost the entire fourth quarter because of our ability to move the ball and use good drives,” said Saban.

Robinson was limited to one touchdown and tallied 99 yards on 19 carries. Seventy-three of those yards came in the first half. He threw for NIU’s second touchdown but was 5-22 passing with 66 yards and two interceptions.

“Our players played hard the whole game. They never gave up. We were in it all the way, but we just got beat by a better team tonight. (UT) played well and deserved to win,” Pettibone said.