Slow start, turnovers put Huskies in early hole against potent ISU offense


NIU running back Chad Spann is swarmed by Iowa State defenders during the Huskies’ 27-10 loss Thursday night.

By Chris Dertz

AMES, IOWA | When the NIU football team stepped onto the field at Jack Trice Stadium Thursday, head coach Jerry Kill believed that there was something missing.

His fear was quickly confirmed as his team showed an inability to play with a sense of urgency that created a first half deficit that was too much to overcome, as NIU (0-1) dropped its seventh-straight season opener to Iowa State, 27-10.

In starting quarterback DeMarcus Grady’s first loss as a starter, both the Huskie offense and defense struggled to deal with what the Cyclones (1-0) threw at them. Grady was constantly pressured, and the Iowa State defensive line tipped multiple balls at the line of scrimmage, leading to three interceptions.

On the other side of the ball, Cyclone quarterback Austen Arnaud and tailback Alexander Robinson had their way with the Huskie defense, amassing 279 yards of offense in the first half, compared to NIU’s 112.

Couple that with an 0-for-7 third-down conversion rate in the first half and place kicker Michael Cklamovski missing both of his field goal attempts created a hole too deep for the Huskies to claw out of.

“[Cklamovski] kicked the ball off pretty good, and he stroked the ball on field goals,” Kill said. “It was just a little bit wide, but he hit it pretty good. It was windy down on that field.”

The key moment of the first half came when Iowa State defensive back Zac Sandvig picked off Grady, followed immediately by a 63-yard touchdown dash by Robinson.

On the ensuing drive, NIU went three-and-out and seemed to be completely out of the game.

“It was a critical point in the game,” Kill said of the touchdown run. “A quick change… you have to be able to respond to that. Both sides of the ball are accountable for that. Somebody’s got to bow up and not let that happen.”

After what Kill called “a loud halftime message,” The Huskies came out firing in the third quarter.

The teams traded turnovers throughout the third, but when NIU got the ball at Iowa State’s 40-yard line, the running of Grady and Huskie tailback Chad Spann led them into the endzone for the first time.

The score cut the Cyclones’ lead to 17-10, but Arnaud, who had 310 total yards, was able to lead his team down the field and score, sending it to 24-10.

After another Grady pick, NIU’s night was over.

“We just couldn’t make a play,” Kill said. “We need to find some people who are going to step up and make them.”