Huskies close non-conference slate

The football team hope to rebound from blowout Michigan loss with win at home against Maine

The+NIU+football+team+runs+onto+the+field+at+Huskie+Stadium+ahead+of+their+game+Sept.+11+against+Wyoming.

Khavon Thomas | Northern Star

The NIU football team runs onto the field at Huskie Stadium ahead of their game Sept. 11 against Wyoming.

James Krause, Sports Editor

DeKALB — The football team looks to close their non-conference schedule with an even 2-2 record as they host the University of Maine Black Bears at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium.

NIU hopes to use Saturday as a bounce back game after taking a 63-10 beating at the hands of the University of Michigan last week. The Huskies allowed Michigan to score touchdowns on their first nine drives of the game, eight of which were rushing touchdowns.

Head coach Thomas Hammock said the team owns their performance over the now 19th ranked Wolverines.

“Last week was not the way we wanted to play,” Hammock said. “We have to play better in all three phases of the game. The great thing about it is that our coaches and young men own that. We have to play better and will play better.”

The passing attack of junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi was limited last week due to NIU planning to neutralize the pass rushing of Michigan senior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. Hutchinson recorded only two tackles, but Lombardi passed for only 46 yards as a result.

The Huskies may see more opportunities for Lombardi against a 1-2 Black Bears team. Hammock said it all depends on matchups week-to-week.

“We want to be more explosive on offense; I don’t think that’s any secret,” Hammock said. “There are challenges week-to-week with that. We have to find the matchups we feel are conducive for us.”

While Maine comes from the lower-tiered Football Championship Subdivision, Hammock and his team aren’t taking their opponents lightly. 

COVID-freshman linebacker Daveren Rayner, who recorded a team-high six solo tackles against Michigan, said NIU understands that any given game can subvert expectations.

“No matter what, nobody is ever out of a game,” Rayner said. “If we’re capable of beating teams like Georgia Tech, then teams like Maine are capable of beating us. They won’t as long as we do what we’re supposed to do.”

This season, FCS schools have already captured a combined 10 victories from their Football Bowl Subdivision foes. It’s the most FCS wins over FBS schools in a season since 2016

Maine registered their first win of the season last week, defeating Merrimack College 31-26.

The Black Bears forced four turnovers and blocked a pair of extra-point attempts. Hammock said his team will be on guard for potential surprises on Saturday.

“We have to be prepared for anything,” Hammock said. “Onside kicks, fakes, and all those scenarios and situations that may come up during a game. We’re on high alert. I think they’re pretty good on special teams, and we have to make sure we’re all hands on deck in every facet of the game.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.