Huskies face Miami for inaugural Mallory Cup

By Jayce Eustice

 A potential trip to the Mid-American Conference Championship is on the line, and the Huskies will play for something extra when they face off against conference rival Miami Ohio RedHawks. The inaugural Mallory Cup will be held 7 p.m. Wednesday at Huskie Stadium.

The Mallory Cup honors late Head Coach Bill Mallory, who coached both NIU and Miami Ohio to conference championships during his career. Mallory is a member of the NIU, Miami Ohio and MAC halls of fame and died May 25. NIU Head Coach Rod Carey played for Mallory at the University of Indiana from 1989 to 1993.

“Everytime Northern Illinois and Miami play, it’ll be for the Mallory Cup,” Carey said. “I know we already have a trophy game, and they might have one or two, but in this case, this was appropriate to what Coach Mallory meant to both institutions and this league.” 

The Huskies come into this matchup having won each of their past six games, with their past contest a 38-15 victory over the Toledo Rockets. NIU needs one win over their final two games to guarantee a spot in the MAC Championship.

The Huskies’ running game exploded against the Rockets with 296 team rushing yards. Sophomore running back Tre Harbison led the game with 139 yards on 21 carries.

Junior running back Marcus Jones was not outshone, as he also surpassed the 100-yard mark with 103 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown.

While the Huskies have been clicking on offense, Miami Ohio Head Coach Chuck Martin is worried about NIU’s defense.

“Defensively, in my opinion, they are the best defense in this league by a wide margin,” Martin said, according to Miami Ohio Athletics. “I don’t know who to compare them to because I don’t think statistically there’s any comparison. They are incredibly physical, fast, defend the run and defend the pass; it doesn’t matter who they play.”

The Huskies’ defense proved Martin right against the Rockets with five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Sophomore defensive tackle Jack Heflin finished his evening with 2.5 sacks and 7 total tackles.

Special teams also came through when junior defensive end Sutton Smith blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown.

The Huskies sit on top of the MAC West with a 6-0 conference record, 7-3 overall. In the MAC East, Miami Ohio is second with a 4-2 conference record, 4-6 overall. Carey had high praise for Miami, despite their losing overall record.

“They are a good team, and you see that on their defense,” Carey said. “All three levels of their defenders are good, sound and in the right place. They know their scheme, and you can tell the foundation’s set defensively.”

Miami’s past game against Ohio University resulted in a 30-28 victory for the RedHawks. Miami senior quarterback Gus Ragland completed 20 of his 32 passes for 199 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Senior running back Alonzo Smith ran for 94 yards while punching in two touchdowns.

Historically, games between these two MAC opponents have been close with NIU leading the series 9-8. With the Huskies still looking to clinch the MAC West, they will have a tough opponent in front of them. The final home game of the season is 7 p.m. Wednesday at Huskie Stadium.