Football loses in-state battle


Redshirt sophomore quarterback Ryan Graham (middle) shouts instructions at Luke Shively, redshirt sophomore offensive lineman (right), prior to a snap during Saturday’s football game at Huskie Stadium. 

By Patrick Smith

DeKALB | NIU begins the season 0-4 for the first time since 1998 after another tough loss at home, 28-23, against the Western Illinois University Leathernecks.

“Western Illinois deserved to win,” Head Coach Rod Carey said. “In the end, they made one or two more plays than we did, and we got to another awful start, and by the time we started to get rolling, it was too late.”

The Huskies trailed midway through the first quarter with an 11-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Steve McShane with 6:52 left to put the Western Illinois Leathernecks up 7-0.

With 1:00 left in the first quarter, Western Illinois extended the Huskies deficit with a one-yard touchdown run by senior running back Jamie Gilmore to extend their lead to 14-0.

The Huskies answered back on the next drive with a ten-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped-off with a crucial fourth and goal conversion from redshirt sophomore quarterback Ryan Graham to junior tight end Shane Wimann to trim the lead to 14-7.

Western Illinois got in the red zone twice in the second quarter but were unable to come away with points with a missed field goal and poor clock management when they were unable to spike the ball before the clock ran out for halftime.

In the beginning of the third quarter, the Huskies defense forced Western Illinois into a fourth down and three, but NIU was unable to stop them converting on a pass that went to the one yard line. A quarterback keeper by sophomore Sean McGuire extended the lead to 21-7.

Graham had a pass deflected by sophomore linebacker Riggs Baxter which was then intercepted by senior defensive lineman Steve Mercado on the Huskies ensuing drive.

The interception set up a touchdown from McGuire to sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Lesure, increasing the Huskies deficit to 21 points.

NIU cut the lead to 11 points after a pass from redshirt senior quarterback Anthony Maddie to redshirt senior Kenny Golladay, setting up a 23-yard touchdown run by redshirt junior tailback Jordan Huff.

Maddie connected with Golladay again for a 39-yard touchdown pass to trim the deficit to just five points, 28-23 with 8:15 left in the fourth quarter after NIU failed the two-point conversion attempt.

The Huskies had a chance to win the game but on fourth and two from Western Illinois’ 21 yard line fell a few inches short in getting the first down. After getting a quick three and out on defense, the Huskies had one more chance but got stuffed at the goal line once again.

“We’ll just have to learn from this,” Carey said. “We are not going to flinch. We are going to go back to work, because we have a good football team, we just need to learn how to win and get over that hurdle.”

The Huskies next game will be 2:30 p.m. Saturday against Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. The game will broadcast on ESPN3 and WLBK-AM 1360/FM 98.9 and AM 560 The Answer for Chicago frequencies.