Loggins: No need to panic, Huskies will be just fine

By Christopher Loggins

Fans of Huskie football have been spoiled for some time now, but the start of this season should humble all of us.

I’ve bragged for a long time about how I felt NIU deserved to be ranked nationally and was the best college football team in all of Illinois, and my beliefs weren’t a reach by any measure. The team has proven all of those things to be true over the course of the last four seasons or so.

Coming into this season, I had hefty expectations from the program again as they came off of another 11-plus win season in 2014. The Huskies looked just as good as they do every year in the first two games against UNLV and Murray State. The team was clicking on all cylinders, and it seemed as if it was headed for another storybook year.

When NIU traveled up to Columbus, Ohio, to play Ohio State in week three, I wasn’t quite sure if it would win but I knew the game would be great, and I was right. There are few prouder moments I’ve had with the team than being able to see it go toe-to-toe with the No. 1 team in the nation. Although they lost, the Huskies showed everyone that they were a force to be reckoned with and deserved more recognition as a great team.

Following the week-three loss, I thought the team would be more motivated than ever. They played their hearts out on the big stage, and should’ve had confidence through the roof. Unfortunately, it’s seemed like quite the opposite since then.

The Huskies dropped their second consecutive game in week four against Boston College in another nail-biting game. I was disappointed in the loss but understood that we were going up against some big challenges.

When I saw that we were playing Central Michigan in week five, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for the Huskies to get back on track. Central Michigan was 1-3, and although they beat NIU last year by 17 points, I figured it would be good for NIU to go up against a team it is familiar with. The Huskies and the Chippewas know each other like the back of each other’s hands and always seem to have great matchups. On top of that, the Huskies hadn’t lost three-straight games since the 2009-10 season. I think it was fair to bet they would come out on top against the Chippewas.

For the third week in a row, I was shocked and disappointed at what I was watching. NIU got off to a quick 10-0 start in the first quarter, but regressed drastically as the game went on. The game was highlighted by a 23-point third quarter from CMU where they completely dominated the Huskies in all phases of the game.

My worst nightmare was coming true: my precious Huskies defeated for the third consecutive game. Although I believe the team has a lot to work on, I don’t think it’s time to panic yet. There are a lot of bright spots.

The defense has played exceptionally well throughout the Huskies’ current losing streak. Week after week, they seem to make a ton of big plays and achieve the unthinkable. One player who has completely caught me off guard is sophomore cornerback Shawun Lurry. He first broke out against Ohio State, picking off two passes and helping to put the offense in opportunities to score. Now in week six, Lurry has five interceptions on the year and four in his last three games. He’s become a huge factor for the Huskies’ defense and has become one of its top players.

One area of concern for me has been the offense. They’ve struggled massively over the course of the last three games, and I’m not really sure what the problem is. Part of me wants to believe it’s just a matter of executing better, and another part of me thinks it could really just be in a slump. Junior quarterback Drew Hare, who I love to refer to as “Drew Heisman,” has been in a bit of a slump after starting the season pretty strong. In his last three games, Hare has failed to throw a single touchdown and has only thrown for 100 yards once. He was benched in the third quarter of the game against Central Michigan, but came back quicky after backup Ryan Graham threw an interception on just his second pass. I don’t think the problem lies in his hands, but quarterbacks always seem to get the blame when a team isn’t performing up to its expectations.

The addition of junior wide receiver Kenny Golladay has been a big plus, as he already has 28 catches on the year and has become Hare’s primary target. Junior running back Joel Bouagnon has rushed the ball pretty well through five games and has been the star of the Huskies’ offense in my opinion.

I believe the team will get things together in due time, but football is a tricky sport, and losing three straight games in a football season is a lot different than losing three straight games in other sports. It’s not time to give up hope for this season, but if the team loses a fourth consecutive game, it could be time to hit the panic button.