Huskies suffer another devastating weeknight blowout

NIU falls to 0-2 after loss to CMU


Partick Murphy | Northern Star

View of the south Huskie Stadium goal post Oct. 19, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

By James Krause

DeKALB — The football team couldn’t muster up any offense until late against the Central Michigan Chippewas, losing to their divisional rival 40-10 on Wednesday.

The Huskies offense struggled to put together any productive drives with two lost fumbles, three turnovers on downs and seven punts by senior punter Matt Ference.

Head Coach Thomas Hammock said he feels disappointed that the team isn’t seeing results for their work so far this year, falling to 0-2.

“I take full responsibility for how we played, we have to play better,” Hammock said. “It’s unfortunate, the way our kids have practiced and got themselves prepared, at the moment we are just not reaping the rewards.”

Redshirt senior quarterback Ross Bowers struggled to connect with his wide receivers, finishing the game at 16-for-32 and 139 passing yards. Bowers started the game but was pulled in the fourth quarter for the second week in a row.

NIU’s offensive line lines up against the University at Buffalo’s defensive line Nov. 4, during the Huskies’ 49-30 loss to the Bulls at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb (Patrick Murphy | Northern Star)

Hammock held off judging Bowers’ performance in the moments after the game, saying the change was to try and spark life into the offense.

“Right now, I’m going to have a chance to go watch the film and evaluate how Ross did and then we can go from there,” Hammock said. “At that moment, we’re not thinking about pulling the quarterback. We’re just looking to find ways to do the things we need to do to get better opportunities.

NIU was unable to contain the Chippewas in the second half with redshirt first-year running back Lew Nichols III making big plays. Nichols III finished with 91 rushing yards, 51 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

The young defense still showed glimpses of what they could do, stopping the Chippewas from scoring on two of their four redzone possessions. Redshirt senior linebacker Kyle Pugh was the star of the squad, finishing with 14 tackles and one-and-a-half sacks.

Pugh said the defense did well against the Chippewas but still had mental mistakes to clean up and study for the future.

“I think walking off the field, it was pretty good for our defense,” Pugh said. “We can always get better. We had a couple mental errors that cost us some big plays, so we definitely want to see what was going on there on those plays and get back to the drawing board.”

The Chippewas scored the game’s first points on a 58-yard touchdown pass from redshirt first-year quarterback Daniel Richardson to junior wide receiver Dallas Dixon.

NIU’s best scoring chance of the half came on their third drive, moving all the way to the CMU 23. Bowers looked for junior running back Erin Collins on a fourth down pass, but an incomplete pass ended the drive and kept it 7-0 after the first quarter.

The young defense gave the Chippewas problems early and added to the highlight reel of one new player. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Jordan Gandy, a DeKalb graduate that transferred to NIU this past offseason, chased down a high hanging pass for an interception off Richardson.

The Huskies defense was able to turn away another potential Chippewas scoring drive later in the quarter. On a fourth and short from NIU’s six-yard line, Richardson was sacked by Pugh to force a turnover on downs.

The only other points of the first half came on a bad snap to Ference late in the second. In the scramble by both teams to retain the ball, NIU had a player punch the ball out of the endzone for a safety. The halftime score was 9-0 for CMU.

The end of the first half was marred by an injury to NIU redshirt junior Jordan Cole, who appeared to suffer a severe leg injury. Cole was taken off the field on a stretcher and taken to a hospital.

CMU got the ball to start the second half and utilized their running attack to reach the goal line of NIU. Once there, junior running back Kobe Lewis punched it in for the touchdown to go up 16-0.

Turnover problems that cost NIU last week returned again at the start of the second half. First-year wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph fumbled on a kick return and CMU recovered. The Chippewas scored a 40-yard field goal by first-year kicker Marshall Meeder on the ensuing drive.

Two plays into the Huskies’ next drive, junior running back Erin Collins fumbled and CMU recovered. Thankfully for Collins, the defense stuffed the Chippewas on a fourth and short to force a turnover on downs.

CMU finished the third quarter off with a screen pass from Richardson to Nichols III for a 58-yard touchdown with 1:52 remaining. The quarter ended 33-0 for the Chippewas.

To start the fourth quarter, Nichols III gashed NIU’s defense again and took it to the house with a 36-yard touchdown rush.

NIU put up their first points on the following drive, securing a 45-yard field goal from redshirt sophomore kicker John Richardson.

Nichols burned the Huskies one last time, getting a 23-yard gain to set up a final CMU touchdown run by junior quarterback Ty Brock.

Backups gave NIU their only touchdown of the game with redshirt senior quarterback Andrew Haidet throwing a 31-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Dennis Robinson with 11 seconds left. The touchdown brought the game to it’s 40-10 final.

Next week, NIU hits the road for the first time in their 2020 campaign. They look to reclaim the Bronze Stalk from the Ball State University Cardinals in Muncie, Indiana. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday on ESPNU.