Huskies fail in ‘red zone’

By John Dietz

Once a team gets inside the 20-yard line, it is in an area known as the ‘red zone.’ When they get there, teams are expected to put points on the board.

Somebody should tell that to NIU and Western Michigan.

Both squads had numerous chances in the ‘zone’ and came away empty handed.

The first choke belonged to NIU. In a scoreless first quarter, the Huskies put together an impressive drive that began with a 14-yard punt return by Chad Smith.

After LeShon Johnson lost five yards on first and ten, Larry Wynn grabbed Scott Crabtree’s toss for a 22-yard gain and Johnson trampled over the Bronco defense for another 22-yard pickup.

NIU was on WMU’s 15-yard line and in great shape to put the first points on the board. Crabtree scampered for four yards then threw incomplete to Wynn which brought up third and six on the 11.

Crabtree went back to pass and was buried by a Bronco lineman for a 10-yard loss. With the ball on the 21, Brian Steger entered the game to tack on three points with a 39-yard field goal.

Not so fast. A low snap forced Wynn, the holder, to improvise and threw incomplete to Brian Cotton.

Another lost opportunity came with WMU leading 7-0 in the second quarter. The Huskies were in the midst of an awesome 10-play, 90-yard drive that was highlighted by a 26-yard run by Johnson.

NIU had the ball first and goal on the Bronco eight. Nine of the 10 plays up to that point had been running plays. Head coach Charlie Sadler then sent Vaurice Patterson on a fade to the corner of the end zone.

It was not to be. Pierre Hixon ended the possible tying TD with a diving interception.

Sadler was asked about the play selection and remarked, “I’d like to have called it and it had been a touchdown.”

However, the Broncos were not without error. At the end of the first half, WMU was looking to put some extra padding on its slim 7-0 lead.

It was second and goal on the three-yard line with less than :20 left in the half. Wide receiver John Morton ran an ‘out’ pattern in which he was running parallel to the one-yard line.

Morton caught the ball, turned to go into the end zone and…

Meet Thom Rhomberg—NIU free safety. Rhomberg blasted Morton and sent him reeling back two yards to the three.

With no timeouts remaining, the clock ran out on the Broncos and the score stayed 7-0.