Football season ends on loss

By Ryan Ostry

DeKALB — It was a tale of two halves in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, resulting in a 31-24 loss for the Huskies against Central Michigan, putting them at an 8-4 record to finish the regular season.

“It’s disappointing,” Head Coach Rod Carey said. “We had that within our control, and our whole focus was to get back and win the MAC West.”

The defense got going early with its fifth interception of the year and second return for a touchdown by redshirt junior linebacker Jawuan Johnson.

The offense returned the favor, going up 14-0 with an over-the-shoulder touchdown reception by junior wide receiver D.J. Brown, which was the third of his career.

In the final seconds heading into the second quarter, Johnson added a sack on Chippewas graduate quarterback Shane Morris to end the quarter.

Central Michigan found themselves down by even more after a 24-yard field goal was made by senior kicker Christian Hagan, resulting in the last time NIU would score until the fourth quarter.

Mid-American Conference player of the year candidate Sutton Smith, redshirt sophomore defensive end, chipped in once again with his 14th sack of the season.

Heading into the half, the Huskies had all the momentum and held the Chippewas to -33 yards on the ground and were up by a score of 17-0.

The second half started with an eruption from Central Michigan with a 56-yard touchdown catch by senior wide receiver Mark Chapman.

On the next Chippewas drive, a 52-yard run by sophomore running back Jonathan Ward set up a 23-yard field goal by senior kicker Michael Armstrong to pull Central Michigan within seven.

Shortly after, Chippewas sophomore cornerback Sean Bunting intercepted his seventh career pass and fifth in his last four games, leading to a Ward touchdown reception, tying the game at 17.

After another run by Ward resulting in a score, Central Michigan took its first lead of the day with 24 unanswered points.

The Huskies offense came back late in the fourth quarter with a 12-yard touchdown score by redshirt freshman tailback Tre Harbison to tie the game.

With a fourth and four and just under 1:30 left in the game, Morris connected on a 29-yard touchdown reception by senior wide receiver Corey Willis to take the lead.

“[Morris] is a great player,” Carey said. “We didn’t execute in the second half, but you have to give [Central Michigan] credit because they are a very good football team.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Childers put together a fourth quarter drive with completions to Spencer Tears, redshirt sophomore wide receiver, and Chad Beebe, redshirt senior wide receiver, but the young Huskie quarterback threw another interception to the Chippewas a 31-24 victory.

“[Childers] got hit as he was throwing it, and it held up in the wind, and [Central Michigan] made a good play on [the ball],” Carey said.

With a University of Toledo Rockets win over the Western Michigan University Broncos and a Huskie loss Friday, Toledo (10-2, 7-1 MAC) won the MAC West, with the Huskies (8-4, 6-2 MAC) and Chippewas (8-4, 6-2 MAC) finishing second in the division.

The Huskies will now play the waiting game to see who they will match up against in this year’s upcoming bowl game as NIU will look to win its first bowl game since 2011 when they defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves 38-20 in the Bowl.