Huskies prepare for inclement weather, defensive line sees tough matchup against CMU offense


Junior defensive end Matt Lorbeck awaits pre snap Saturday as the defense looks to its coaches for the next call during NIU’s 49-0 win against Akron at Huskie Stadium.

By James Krause

DeKALB — Mother nature could play a role in the Huskies’ game Saturday with AccuWeather forecasting potential snow showers for that day. Hammock said the forecasts play a factor in gameplaning.

Weather affected the Huskies’ gameplay Saturday against the University of Akron Zips. The rain forced NIU to run the ball 61 times against, while only seeing nine pass attempts by redshirt junior quarterback Marcus Childers.

“For us, it’s about having some balance,” Hammock said. “Every week I look at the weather conditions. This weekend there’s going to be some rain and a chance for snow. We’ve got to take all those factors into game planning.”

The NIU football team will try to put together back-to-back wins for the first time this season when it faces the Central Michigan University Chippewas Saturday.

Head Coach Thomas Hammock said the Huskies might not have the record to show for it but are carrying the momentum of tons of preparation into the conference matchup. The Huskies are 3–5 and have four games ahead, including Saturday’s matchup against the Chippewas.

“We’ve practiced well the last three weeks,” Hammock said. “You’d hope after a game like [Saturday’s] we can continue to do the things during the week to get prepared to play a football game.”

The Huskies showed up in their most recent game, shutting out the Akron Zips 49-0 Saturday in NIU’s Homecoming matchup. Even with the shutout and five offensive touchdowns, Hammock said he found room for improvement moving forward.

“I think our special teams continue to be a work in progress,” Hammock said. “[It’s] the one area we continue to want to get [a] better understanding. You have young guys playing, and they need to stay locked in and engaged.”

Hammock didn’t announce a starting quarterback for Saturday, though he noted senior quarterback Ross Bowers is “trending in the right direction” following a concussion Oct. 12 against Ohio.

A matchup with the Chippewas seemed to look like a cakewalk at the beginning of the season, with CMU going 1-11 last season and failing to beat any team in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

NIU last defeated CMU 24-16 Sept. 15, 2018 in the Huskies’ Mid-American Conference opener. 

CMU struggled in its 2018 season, as the team went 1-11.

The Chippewas have turned their narrative in nine games, sporting a 5-4 record under their new head coach, Jim McElwain. CMU also boasts a 3-2 conference record.

The backfield of CMU has been the focal point of its resurgence. The team’s leading rusher gained only 402 yards in the entire 2018 season; both senior running back Johnathan Ward and sophomore running back Kobe Lewis have already rushed for a combined 1,370 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Hammock, a former NIU running back himself, has never lost to CMU as a player or an assistant coach. He said he sees all-around talent from both backs.

“I see a group that breaks tackles,” Hammock said. “[Ward] really plays behind his pads. He’s got good feet, good vision.”

Aside from Central Michigan’s rushing power, the Chippewas also have three seniors on their starting offensive line. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Jack Heflin said the Chippewas’ offense will be a great challenge for the experienced defensive line of the Huskies.

“I’m really looking forward to the matchup,” Heflin said. “I was just talking to my defensive line coach and said that these games really excite me because [they’re] against a really good offensive line, [and] this is what you want as a competitor.”

The weather conditions can be an issue for Cole Tucker, redshirt sophomore wide receiver and punt returner; however, Tucker said the conditions don’t affect how players approach a game and preparation for it. 

“I don’t really prepare any different and the mindset doesn’t change,” Tucker said. “You just got to play through it and go out and play well no matter what the conditions.”

Kick off is set for 11 a.m. Saturday in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The broadcast will be live on the CBS Sports Network.