Huskies return to DeKalb for Homecoming

By Jayce Eustice

NIU comes into Saturday’s Homecoming match against the Ohio Bobcats, winning three of the past four contests. The Bobcats have less MAC experience this season, coming in with a 1-0 MAC record and 3-2 overall. The Huskies will put their perfect 3-0 MAC on the line.

After starting the year 1-3, the Huskies have worked their way back to a 3-3 record. Senior offensive tackle Max Scharping said the team has continued to develop throughout the year.

“I think we’re improving every single week we’re out there, and that’s one of our goals,” Scharping said. “Every single week you just have to be better than you were last week.”

NIU leaned heavily on the ground game in their 24-16 victory Oct. 6 against the Ball State Cardinals. The Huskies totaled 227 rushing yards with junior running back Marcus Jones running for 130 yards, including a season-high 64-yard rush.

Jones’ 100-yard performance came a week after sophomore running back Tre Harbison ran for 136 yards against Eastern Michigan, marking the first time since 2016 two Huskies ran for over 100 yards in back-to-back weeks.

Sophomore quarterback Marcus Childers threw for 143 yards with one touchdown and one interception, bringing his season totals to 804 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions.

The Huskies were able to hold Ball State to 16 points in the contest; their defense now ranks 20th in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, and first in the Mid-American Conference in team sacks per game with three. They are also ranked 22nd, fourth in the MAC, in turnovers gained with 11.

Ohio Head Coach Frank Solich said the Huskies have talent on offense and defense during an Oct. 8 news conference.

“They have some exceptional guys there,” Solich said to Ohio Athletics. “They’ve got a really good group of defensive players on their football team. That’s not saying they don’t have an offensive game because they have talent there and a majority of their offense coming back. Obviously, they’ve been able to score points.”

The Ohio Bobcats had a narrow 27-26 victory against Kent State, giving them their first MAC victory of the year in their first MAC game. Ohio junior quarterback Nathan Rourke threw for 284 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while completing 90 percent of his passes. Rourke added 49 rushing yards to his total.

Ohio senior running back O.J. Ouellette contributed 72 rushing yards on 18 attempts with two touchdowns.

The Ohio defense has given up an average of 508.8 yards per game this season, ranking them 124th in the FBS. NIU ranks 48th in the FBS in defensive yards per game. NIU Head Coach Rod Carey said the defensive statsistics for Ohio do not tell the whole story.

“If you’re going to just judge Ohio off of their numbers, that is the wrong thing to do,” Carey said. “That defense is really good. I think they’ve had some issues maybe at times with big plays here and there that maybe skew numbers a little bit. One look at the body of their work shows it is a really good defense.”

This will be the Huskies last home game until Nov. 7. The Homecoming game will kick off 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium.