Huskies to move on without Hare

By Christopher Loggins

Football won bowl eligibility in a 32-27 victory against No. 20 Toledo, but lost two of its biggest offensive players in the process, placing questions around the remainder of the season.

NIU lost junior quarterback Drew Hare and senior wide receiver Tommylee Lewis to injuries in the second quarter of its sixth victory against the Rockets. The Huskies are now second place in the MAC.

Lewis went down first in the second quarter with a non-contact injury to his lower-body and couldn’t walk off the field under his own power. He was listed as doubtful but never returned to the lineup.

It’s not the first time Lewis has faced injury problems. He missed the majority of the 2014-15 season with a toe injury and returned to the Huskies’ lineup this season.

Hare went down just a few minutes after the Lewis injury, also injuring his lower-body on a non-contact play. Hare, like Lewis, wasn’t able to walk off under his own power, and was almost immediately ruled as out for the remainder of the game. It was later announced that Hare would miss the rest of the season.

Lewis’ status for the rest of the season has still not been announced.

Redshirt freshman Ryan Graham picked things up for Hare after the injury, going 9-12 with 128 yards and a touchdown and helping lead the Huskies to the win. Hare was benched for Graham in an Oct. 3 game against Central Michigan, a move that didn’t last long after Graham threw an interception on just his second pass.

Graham has completed 11 of 17 passes this year, throwing for 163 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Hare’s campaign ends with 1,962 yards, 14 touchdowns and four picks.

Graham redshirted in 2014 and is the only backup quarterback on the roster who has seen game time. There are three freshman quarterbacks behind Graham, one of which could see playing time if Graham were to not perform well or face an unfortunate injury as Hare did.

Graham has a family line that runs deep in NIU football. His father, Dan Graham, played center and tight end for NIU from 1983 to 1987 before heading to the NFL and playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ryan’s uncle, Russ Graham, played at NIU from 1979 to 1982. Another uncle, Kent, didn’t play for the Huskies, but played at Notre Dame and Ohio State before playing 10 seasons in the NFL.

Graham’s play will be watched closely with only three games remaining in the regular season. He has not seen a lot of game time, but will be the next man up for the Huskies.

NIU’s next game will take place against Buffalo at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Buffalo, N.Y. It will be Graham’s first career start.