Football faces true test


Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Childers throws the ball in the Huskies’ 24-3 home win Oct. 7 against Kent State.

By Ryan Ostry

The football team has, arguably, its biggest game of the year coming up, as Mid-American Conference title hopes are on the line against fellow rival University of Toledo Rockets.

The 6-2 Huskies sit one game behind Toledo, who are 7-1. A win by NIU would tie both teams with three games remaining in the regular season. A loss by the Huskies would put them two games back of Toledo, severely hurting their chances of winning the MAC West and qualifying for the MAC Championship game.

The Huskies will face potential All-American senior quarterback Logan Woodside, who has thrown for 2,295 yards and 19 touchdowns through eight games.

“It starts with the quarterback; he’s really good,” Head Coach Rod Carey said. “He’s got complete command of the offense [and] throws the ball really well.”

Toledo leads the entire MAC coming into this game with a 7-1 overall record, and they are undefeated in conference play as well.

The Rockets have a very versatile offense, not just relying on Woodside, a potential 2018 NFL draft pick. Senior running back Terry Swanson has made Toledo fans forget about Kareem Hunt, who is now having a breakout season for the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL.

Swanson has averaged 104 yards per game and has also rushed for eight touchdowns, according to the Toledo’s Athletics website.

Woodside’s biggest target through the air has been junior wide receiver Diontae Johnson, who has hauled in nearly 700 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

NIU will roll into Ohio trailing the Rockets by one game in the MAC West with a 6-2 record, but are undefeated in conference play.

Players have heard talk about the impact of this game but are trying to treat it as any other game so far to date.

“Everyone thinks we are the second best team and coming into this game worried,” said Marcus Jones, redshirt sophomore running back. “We just have to play our game and treat this game like every other week.”

NIU hasn’t lost a game in over a month and has been riding the coattails from redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Childers, who has won all three of his starts so far.

The team has been carried lately by Shane Wimann, redshirt senior tight end, who has caught a touchdown pass in four straight games.

“[Shane] has had a contribution every week, and we expect the same,” Carey said.

Wimann has given the Huskies offense a consistent threat that has helped guys such as senior receiver Christian Blake and Spencer Tears, redshirt sophomore wide receiver, have more one-on-one options for availability to make plays.

Defensively, NIU keeps getting dominating performances from Sutton Smith, redshirt sophomore defensive end, who has 9.5 sacks with 20 total tackles for loss.

“The [defensive line] has stepped up big this year, and it’s making it easier for the linebackers and the secondary,” redshirt senior linebacker Bobby Jones IV said.

The defensive line will need many contributions from not just Smith, but by junior defensive end Josh Corcoran, freshman defensive end Jack Heflin, and other rotational players to get Woodside flustered in the pocket.

The Huskies will be on the road against the Rockets 5 p.m. Thursday in Toledo, Ohio.