Defense on the rise after slow start


Earlier this season the defense was criticized for its poor play. They, along with turnovers and penalties, were usually blamed for the Huskies’ loss.

This was not the case in Saturday’s loss to the University of Southwestern Louisiana. The defense did a good job of containing the USL offensive attack when they needed to and it was the offense that couldn’t get the job done this week.

“We actually played pretty good defense,” said head coach Charlie Sadler. “Had some bad things not happened on offense, we probably would have won the game.”

The Ragin‘ Cajuns were able to put 33 points on the board, but nine of those points came courtesy of the offense. USL was able to stop a Huskie reverse in the end zone for a safety and they also ran back an interception for a touchdown. The defense then only allowed 24 points to a USL offense that averages 21 points per game.

After giving up an average of 420.7 yards per game this season, the defense also held USL to just 301 total yards (142 rushing and 159 passing).

The defense came out ready to play. On the first series of the game they forced the Cajuns into a third-and-long situation from their own four yard line. Hollis Thomas broke through the offensive line and recorded a Huskie safety.

On USL’s next possession the defense held them to just five plays and they had to punt. The Huskies only allowed them to move the ball 30 yards on that series.

Early in the second quarter the defense allowed USL to score 11 points. That gave them a 14-12 lead with about three minutes to go in the half. The defense was determined to keep them from scoring again.

In two straight possessions at the end of the half, USL was held to three plays before having to punt. In the first series the defense allowed no yardage. On the second, the Cajuns’ punted after a net gain of negative one yards thanks to a delay of game penalty in which they failed to draw the Huskies offsides. The defensive backs forced all four pass attempts to be incomplete during those two possessions.

The end of the half was merely a sign of things to come because the defense didn’t allow any point in the third quarter. By the time the fourth quarter came around NIU was on top with a 19-16 lead.

“We had positioned ourselves there in the third quarter to win the football game,” said Sadler. “I thought our defense came out and did an excellent job in the second half.”

The third quarter featured a defensive effort that included a USL turnover. Tony Smith was able to force a fumble that Eric Lacy jumped on to give the Huskies the ball back three plays after the Cajuns intercepted it.

USL had a chance to take the lead after getting the ball back at midfield on their second interception. The Huskies held strong and only gave up 14 yards on four plays which forced another USL punt.

The Ragin‘ Cajuns opened the fourth quarter by scoring off their third interception to go up 23-19, but when they got the ball for their first legitimate possession it was deja vu. They had the ball at midfield again only to gain just three yards on four plays and had to punt.

The defense did allow ten points later in the fourth quarter but it could have been worse. With 4:33 left in the game the defense held USL to just six yards on three plays to force a punt. USL would get the ball again with 2:07 left but again ended with a negative net yardage and had to punt again.

In all the defense had seven pass break ups, Sam Denson recorded two after having three last week. Smith, Thomas and Gerald Nickleberry led the team in tackles with eight each, and Thomas recorded the only sack. Their were also seven tackles that resulted in a net loss of 20 yards.