Football to travel to SEC territory for a Saturday morning game


Spencer Tears (left), redshirt senior wide receiver, and redshirt senior safety Mykelti Williams address media Tuesday during a press conference.

By Maddie Barrett

DeKALB — NIU heads to Southeastern Conference territory Saturday where it will face Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Vanderbilt is coming off a 66-38 loss to No. 4 Louisiana State University and is winless this season with two other losses to the University of Georgia and Purdue University. Although the Commodores have yet to notch a victory, Head Coach Thomas Hammock said the team is a strong opponent.

“[Vanderbilt] probably has one of the toughest schedules in the country with Georgia, Purdue and LSU,” Hammock said. “They’re a good football team; they’ve got good athletes on both sides of the ball.”

Hammock said Vanderbilt has team speed, wide receivers who can make plays and a quarterback who can make a guy miss. On defense, the team has players who can wreck a game.

First-year cornerback Mark Aitken and redshirt-senior linebacker Kyle Pugh are out for the season with injuries — Pugh suffering from a shoulder injury from the University of Utah loss and Aitken with an ankle injury due to preparation for the Utah game.

Hammock said the team is looking to improve throughout the week leading up to the Vanderbilt game, including the return of some injured players.

“A couple guys have some injuries that we hope to get back, and we’ll get ourselves a little more healthy,” Hammock said. “Hopefully we’ll have some guys back for Saturday.”

The Huskies took a break from being under the lights last weekend during their bye week but continued to practice.

Redshirt-senior safety Mykelti Williams said the bye week was a benefit to the team.

“I think [the bye week] allowed us to rejuvenate,” Williams said. “Everyone feels good. Everyone’s excited to get back out there on the practice field. We’ve got another week of practice to get ready for Saturday.”

With back-to-back losses clouding the team, Hammock said the bye week came at a great time.

“I think [the bye week] was an excellent time for us and our team to regroup, get healthy and continue to grind to get better,” Hammock said.

The last time NIU and Vanderbilt met was in 1999 with a Huskie loss of 34-31. Vanderbilt cornerback Jimmy Williams ran a 65-yard punt return to the house with 41 seconds left on the clock to down the Huskies. NIU led 28-3 through three quarters before the Commodores scored 25 unanswered points.

Spencer Tears, redshirt senior wide receiver, said he’s excited to play another power-five school to bring more attention to NIU.

“With them being an SEC school it’s kind of a bigger thing for us too because that’s probably one of the highest conferences in college football,” Tears said. “Just to be able to play another power- five school and having it on our resumes is pretty good, and we’re looking to come out with a [victory] this time.”

Kick off is set for 11 a.m Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium.