Football facing first 3-game slide in 5 years

By Patrick Smith

 After a two-game skid, football (2-2, 0-0 MAC), which hasn’t lost three straight games in five seasons, will face off in a battle against Central Michigan (1-3, 0-0 MAC) Saturday at Kelly Shorts Stadium.

The Huskies are coming off of a close loss, falling 17-14 to Boston College (3-1, 0-1 ACC) last week on the road. The loss was the second in a row for the team after starting the season 2-0.

“Well it’s just day to day,” said head coach Rod Carey. “You got to get better each day, and we have to go back to work this week.”

The Huskies remained close in the game as the defense only allowed 326 total yards, but couldn’t find any offense, mustering up just 153 yards. Junior quarterback Drew Hare threw for 81 yards and completed less than 50 percent of his passes in the game.

“It’s not just Drew, even though he needs to work on his footwork, timing and throwing,” Carey said. “It’s also protection from the running backs, offensive line and route running by receivers. It’s everything.”

Though the team has struggled as of late, junior offensive lineman Lincoln Howard spoke of how it just needs to perform better.

“It’s definitely not from a scheme stand point, because we do what we do,” Howard said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times so I believe we just have to get back to the fundamentals and execute.”  

The Chippewas are also coming off of back-to-back losses — their latest being against the No. 2 ranked Michigan State Spartans — falling 30-10. Central Michigan defeated the Huskies 34-17 in their last matchup in 2014 at Huskie Stadium. Saturday’s game will mark the first conference play of the season for both teams.

“It’s our first conference game,” Carey said. “I always say it’s like fighting your brother when you get into conference. You know how to push each other’s buttons, and you know you’re going to get into a fight. And all of a sudden, before you know it, you’re in a fight, and that’s how it is. And obviously, going up to Central Michigan — long trip for us on the bus — but then you go up, and they have a great environment and all those things. All those things are reasons we’re going to look forward to getting on the road and getting up there and putting our best foot forward in trying to give ourselves an opportunity in the fourth quarter to be successful with that.”

The game will be NIU’s third consecutive game on the road and the last before it returns home Oct. 10 for a battle against Ball State. The Huskies haven’t lost three games in a row since the 2009-10 season.

“You know you go into each game, and you have a scheme … and you try to execute that plan, and then losing happens,” said senior defensive end Cameron Clinton-Earl. “But with losing you get a chance to evaluate and see what worked and what didn’t work and what you have to improve on. We just have to go back to work and try to connect on all cylinders and get things going.”

Carey said Central Michigan’s numbers don’t reflect the quality of play they’ve come out with at every game this season.

“I think if you look at it on paper and go 1-3, they’re a 1-3 football team; they’re not very good,” Carey said. “You look, and they’ve played Oklahoma State, Monmouth, Syracuse and Michigan State, and then you turn on the film and watch it. It’s a 17-10 game against Michigan State in the fourth quarter. So really if you’re just looking at numbers and time, they’re a good football team. They’re a really good team.” The game will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday in Mount Pleasant, Mich. on ESPN3.