Offensive struggles, missed opportunities end Huskies’ six-win streak


Offensive struggles, missed opportunities end Huskies’ six-win streak

By James Krause

Dropped passes, penalties and missed opportunities downed the football team Wednesday in its 13-7 loss to the Miami of Ohio RedHawks, ending NIU’s six-game win streak.

NIU’s offense failed to convert on a third down in the second half after converting two of six chances in the first.

Multiple drops by receivers led sophomore quarterback Marcus Childers going 5-for-20 on pass attempts in the second half. Childers also threw an interception returned for Miami’s only touchdown of the game.

Head Coach Rod Carey said offensive errors put the team in a hole they couldn’t dig themselves out of.

“Too many mistakes on offense is how you sum it up,” Carey said. “Penalties, drops, turnovers; there was a lack of execution and missed opportunities. That was probably our most disappointing offensive performance.”

Sophomore running back Tre Harbison was a lone bright spot for NIU’s offense, running for over a 100 yards for the fifth time this season. Harbison said the team promised not to have as bad a performance as they had Wednesday.

“It won’t happen again,” Harbison said. “We had plays that were there, [but] it just didn’t happen tonight. It won’t happen again.”

Both teams played well defensively to start, not allowing any points scored in the first quarter. The Huskies’ defense held up despite losing junior safety Mykelti Williams in the first quarter when he was ejected for commiting a targeting penalty.

Late in the second quarter, the RedHawks broke open a long drive thanks to a 23-yard run from senior running back Kenny Young.

The Huskies were able to get a stop and hold Miami to a 30-yard field goal from junior kicker Sam Sloman. The RedHawks took a 3-0 lead with 5:40 remaining in the first half.

NIU’s offense had a chance to respond with a drive of their own, but a fumble by senior tight end Ty Harmston was recovered by the RedHawks.

Following the play, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called on Carey and the RedHawks wound up in NIU territory. Miami failed to make anything of the opportunity, and the game remained 3-0 at halftime.

The Huskies made up for their offensive woes on their first possession of the second half, reaching Miami territory thanks to a 37-yard throw from Childers to junior wide receiver Spencer Tears.

Junior running back Marcus Jones finished the drive two plays later with a 29-yard touchdown, but injured his leg on the run and would miss the rest of the game. NIU took the lead 7-3.

The RedHawks answered with a 39-yard field goal from Sloman and an interception thrown by Childers to freshman defensive back Ja’Don Rucker-Furlow, who returned it 28 yards for a touchdown. Miami took back the lead 13-7 in the third quarter.

Childers later said the play was a result of him trying to force a play.

“I thought I saw something to where maybe I had the cushion there to throw it,” Childers said. “I just tried to force a ball that I shouldn’t have.”

The Huskies proceeded to punt on their next five drives, including three drives without a first down. NIU’s defense, to their credit, forced Miami to punt on all six of their drives following the interception return touchdown.

The game was still up for grabs with 5:31 remaining when senior wide receiver Jauan Wesley gave NIU it’s biggest gain of the quarter with a 18-yard reception.

On fourth down, Wesley and the Huskies tried to trick the RedHawks defense by having Wesley receive a handoff and throw it to Tears, but the pass was dropped and Miami received the ball on downs.

NIU failed to pick up even a first down on their next possession, and the RedHawks ran out the remaining time to move to a 5-6 record.

Miami’s win made them the inaugural winner of the Mallory Cup, a trophy named in honor of Coach Bill Mallory, who coached both programs to conference championships during his career.

Miami’s Head Coach Chuck Martin said the game and honoring Mallory, who passed away in May, are special to him and both programs.

“It means a lot to us, all of us,” Martin said. “It means a lot to me. I’ve got a ton of respect for Bill Mallory. He’s the greatest coach in Miami’s history.”

The Huskies loss ends their undefeated Mid-American conference record, but the team still clinched the MAC West division title thanks to a Western Michigan Broncos loss to Ball State.

NIU will head to Western Michigan to end their regular season schedule with a Tuesday night game against the Broncos. Kickoff will be at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.