Bulldogs pass by Huskies 42-21

By Thom Gippert

RUSTON, La.—For the second straight year, NIU has gone down to Cajun-country and come back with a loss, this time 42-21 to Louisiana Tech in front of 17,300 fans.

The Bulldogs (2-3-1) came prepared to break the wishbone, they came ready to open up their offense and they just came home. In their first home game of the season, the Techsters were just too much, offensively and defensively, for the Huskies (4-2).

On a sunny, warm and humid afternoon, Tech’s sophomore quarterback Gene Johnson threw for a school record five touchdowns—breaking the existing record of four set by alumnist and ex-Pittsburgh Steeler Terry Bradshaw.

Johnson wasn’t a choosy passer as he hit a variety of receivers with screens, bombs and in-betweeners.

Tech started the scoring by running the football, however, when running back Derrick Douglas plowed in from 2 yards to make the score 7-0.

The Huskies marched back. After a 71-yard run by quarterback Stacey Robinson, halfback Mike Strasser cruised in from 5 yards to knot the game at 7-7.

That was it for NIU as Tech went on a scoring rampage.

The benefactors of excellent field position throughout the entire game, Tech’s Johnson zipped touchdown passes of 1, 37, 6, 37 and 38 yards.

Tech wide receiver Bobby Slaughter, similar in style of play to Steve Largent of the Seattle Seahawks, made touchdown catches of 37 and 38 yards. Both catches came in the second half and apparently the Bulldogs saw something in the Huskie defense that gave them the idea to go deep.

“At halftime, some of the coaches and the receivers got together and we decided we could go deep on them early in the second half. They usually don’t give up the long pass but the coaches saw something, we made some adjustments,” Slaughter said.

Another oddity of those catches was that both of them were the first plays from scrimmage on their respective possessions.

Johnson’s other touchdown passes were to Paul Cannady for 1 yard on a fourth-and-goal, wide receiver Cory Parham for 6 yards and a 37-yard screen pass to Douglas.

Louisiana Tech’s offense was explosive and NIU head coach Jerry Pettibone came away impressed.

“I was really impressed with the execution of their offense and how well they protected their quarterback, how well he threw and they should have had a bunch more yards but their receivers dropped quite a few of them,” Pettibone said.

The Bulldog’s ground game was also effective. Douglas, the 5-10, 205-pound senior, gained 93 yards on 22 carries. Johnson ended the day 21 of 30 in the passing department for 290 yards and five touchdowns.

“Everything we did was right today, our offense came back to life, it was a great day for us on offense,” Louisiana Tech coach Joe Raymond Peace said.

The Bulldog defense wasn’t too shabby either.

Tech linebackers Glenell Sanders and Doug Evans were making it extremely difficult for the wishbone to work. Sanders racked up 19 tackles and Evans had 13.

For NIU, it made things respectable at the end of the game as second string quarterback Rob Rugai guided a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns. With a little over three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Rugai ran three yards for a touchdown and after a successful onside kick the Huskies punched in another touchdown when running back Raymond Patterson scored from eight yards out to make the final tally 42-21.

“We got beat by a well coached team that was a better team than us today. I think were capable of playing better than we did today, but that’s our fault, that’s not their fault,” Pettibone said.

Robinson and the wishbone were stymied the entire day. Robinson ended the game with 81 yards on 18 carries while running the football. Fullback Adam Dach had 82 yards on 17 attempts. The Huskies did manage 332 rushing yards, but a great deal of that yardage was picked up in the fourth quarter.

Starting running back Brett Schroeder injured his right shoulder and his status will be known after further examination. Defensive end Scott Van Bellinger suffered a heat stroke, but will return to action this weekend.

Last season the Huskies went to Louisiana to play Southwestern Louisiana and lost the game 45-0. This year saw a 42-21 defeat to the hands of Louisiana Tech, but Pettibone thinks the third time might be the charm for winning in Louisiana.

“I want to come back and get the monkey off our back. Today, Tech played well and they deserved to win the game,” Pettibone said.