Huskies travel to Akron to resume MAC play

By Jayce Eustice

Fresh off a defensive battle against Brigham Young University, the Huskies head back into Mid-American Conference play against the Akron Zips Thursday. NIU currently ranks first in the MAC West with a perfect 4-0 conference record.

The Huskies’ defense held the BYU Cougars to two field goals in their 7-6 win, marking the first time since Oct. 7, 2017, in the Huskies’ 24-3 victory over Kent State, that NIU didn’t allow a touchdown. It was a down game for the Huskies’ offensively, with sophomore quarterback Marcus Childers throwing for 115 yards. Childers added 19 yards on the ground while rushing in the game’s only touchdown.

The Huskies were able to overcome 10 penalties, granting BYU 80 yards. The Cougars won the time of possession battle by almost 10 minutes, but the game was put away by a late interception by junior safety Mykelti Williams. Head Coach Rod Carey said his team was able to make plays when the game required.

“I think we’ve executed at critical moments,” Carey said. “We talk about that all the time; each game comes down to four or five plays. When it’s a one-point game, there tends to be more of those plays that can make the difference in a game.”

The Huskies’ 27 sacks ranks them sixth in the country while giving up 111.8 rushing yards per game, good enough for 19th in the FBS. Junior defensive end Sutton Smith leads the way for the Huskies with seven sacks, tied for 11th in the country.

Akron Head Coach Terry Bowden had high praise for NIU’s impressive defense this season.

“Now, we have to play one of the best teams in our conference in Northern Illinois,” Bowden said to Akron Athletics. “If not the best defense, one of the best defenses. They make it hard on you every which way, and they score enough points to win.”

Akron comes into the matchup against NIU on a two-game winning streak after defeating MAC rivals Central Michigan and Kent State. In their most recent game against Central Michigan, Akron jumped out to a 17-0 lead before halftime. In the third quarter, Central Michigan rallied back to score 10 points. That would be all they would score as 17-10 remained the final.

Akron sophomore quarterback Kato Nelson threw for 149 yards and one touchdown, while senior running back Van Edwards Jr. rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown.

Akron’s offensive ranks on the year come in consistently over 100. Their 315.3 yards per game ranks 123rd in FBS, while their 22.4 points per game come in ranked 113th. While Akron’s stats aren’t pretty, NIU defensive end Sutton Smith said he knows the talent on the offense.

“They have a good quarterback; he’s pretty mobile and makes guys miss,” Smith said. “They have a good receiving corps. Their offensive line is probably one of the more solid units we’ve seen all year. Up front, they are probably one of the better units we’ll face at picking up stunts and blitzes.”

The final four games on the Huskies’ regular season schedule are against MAC opponents. The Huskies hope to keep their chance at a MAC championship going strong when they line up against the Akron Zips for the first time since 2013. The game will kick off at 6 p.m. Thursday at InfoCision Stadium in Akron, Ohio. The game will be televised on CBSSN.