Football faces Presbyterian’s aerial attack


Senior Tommylee Lewis returns a kickoff against the Purdue Boilermakers Sept. 28 in West Lafayette, Ind. Lewis, who has returned four kickoffs for touchdowns in his three years at NIU, should play a vital role for the Huskies in the return game against Presbyterian.

By Frank Gogola

Football is branding itself as a new team in a new year wanting a different ending than last season’s pair of losses to close out the schedule.

The Huskies will have the opportunity to get the bad taste of last season’s ending out of their mouths when they host the Presbyterian Blue Hose 6 p.m. today at Huskie Stadium.

The team dropped a 47-27 decision to the Bowling Green Falcons in the 2013 MAC Championship Game, ending its hopes of crashing the BCS for a second straight season. Instead, the Huskies settled for a trip to the 2013 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, where they fell to the Utah State Aggies, 21-14.

“Obviously, last season was kind of a disappointment for us because we went into the last two games looking unprepared and disoriented,” said redshirt sophomore linebacker Ladell Fleming. “Being able to get back on the field, on our own field this year, we’ve been looking forward to it since the last game.

“We’ve had a sour taste in our mouth ever since we started spring ball, went into the summer just with that itch on our hands, ready to get back on the field. We’re ready to give it everything [we’ve] got for the first game.”

Presbyterian has struggled since making the move from Division II to the Football Championship Subdivision in 2007, but the Huskies aren’t taking the Blue Hose lightly.

“… [I] really believe that they’re a fine football team,” said head coach Rod Carey. “They’re obviously well-coached. It doesn’t take you more than 15 minutes of watching film to tell that their schemes are solid.”

Carey said the Blue Hose remind him of the 2010 University of North Dakota team — of which he was on the coaching staff — that came into DeKalb and nearly upset the Huskies, losing 23-17.

“… It’s almost a clone,” Carey said. “And that was a really tight game. … They remind me exactly like that. [They] got a good quarterback, got an outstanding wide receiver, another good wide receiver, a good linebacker coming back [and] a good group of guys on defense coming back. …”

Presenting an aerial threat, the Blue Hose may test the somewhat-inexperienced NIU secondary early and often.

Dechane Durante, redshirt senior free safety, headlines the secondary, while junior Marlon Moore will see his first live-game action at strong safety after making the transition from cornerback to safety during spring camp. Redshirt junior cornerback Paris Logan is the only other upperclassman among the defensive backs.

Making up the rest of the secondary on the two-deep are one sophomore, two redshirt freshmen and four true freshmen.

The Huskies bring back a slew of offensive weapons and veteran offensive linemen, which should not only help whoever gets reps at quarterback but also provide the defense with a bit of a cushion.