Huskies splash W. Michigan, 15-7

By Bob Regan

The conditions were wet, cold and windy, but a 15-7 win over California Bowl-bound Western Michigan Saturday warmed the hearts of head coach Jerry Pettibone and his team—as well as the 2,329 spectators who sat through the game at Huskie Stadium.

NIU wrapped up its 1988 season with a 7-4 record, which is only the fifth time the Huskies have had a winning season since 1969. WMU’s record dropped to 8-2 overall and remains 6-1 in the Mid-American Conference.

“This is a great end for 13 of our seniors,” Pettibone said. “Guys who have been with this program for four years. We’ve stayed with the same philosophy, and our seniors have done a great job adapting to it, believing in it and being examples for the rest of the players.”

One player who was sorry to see his collegiate career come to an end was the Huskies’ wishbone quarterback, Marshall Taylor.

“It’s hard to believe this day has come,” Taylor said. “It’s like the other day I was fighting for the No. 1 position. It’s hard to find the words to express how I feel right now.”

Although Taylor completed only two of nine passes, both completions gave the Huskies big yardage and set up touchdowns.

The Huskies were content to keep the ball on the ground much of the game as they called 57 runs out of 66 offensive plays. Freshman Adam Dach accounted for 107 of NIU’s 185 rushing yards.

WMU head coach Al Molde admitted his team was not able to pull off what it wanted to do offensively, but Molde did not use the poor weather as an excuse.

“The conditions are a part of it,” he said. “If it had been blue skies and sunny, I think we would have had a lot more success. But you just have to find a way to win. We did not get the job done.”

The Broncos came into the game as one of the top passing offenses in the country. However, NIU held the WMU squad to 180 yards in the air—120 yards in the first half and only 60 yards in the second half.

“Our defense just played a tremendous football game today,” Pettibone said. “The offense did what they had to do and when they had to do it. I was proud of our offense because on a wet field with the wishbone it limits a lot of things you’re able to do.”

The Broncos drew first blood in the second quarter. After Dach fumbled on the NIU 37, WMU took possession on the 39 following a two-yard return. On the fifth play of the drive, WMU quarterback Tony Kimbrough hit Allan Boyko in the end zone with 10:43 left in the half. John Creek was successful on the extra point, which gave WMU a 7-0 lead.

In the third quarter, following an interception by NIU’s Mike Hollingshed at NIU’s 43-yard line, the Huskies began their first scoring drive. Twelve plays later Taylor ran the ball up the middle for a one-yard TD with 8:25 left in the quarter. The extra point was unsuccessful.

In the fourth quarter, NIU put together another successful drive that took only two plays and 25 seconds. On the first play from the WMU 48, Taylor connected with wide receiver Mark Clancy for a gain of 38 yards. The next play had Taylor handing off to halfback Rodney Taylor, who scored from 10 yards. Once again the Huskies failed on the point-after-touchdown.

NIU’s final scoring drive came after linebacker Ron Delisi picked off a Kimbrough pass and ran it back 25 yards to the WMU 45. Seven plays later, John Ivanic kicked a 28-yard field goal to finish all scoring.

The Broncos started their final drive from their own 33 and pushed all the way to the Huskie 8. However, three incomplete passes, an intentional grounding call and a sack by Phil Foley ended all hopes the Broncos had.