NIU starts back half of year against Falcons

Huskies hope to stay perfect in conference play with win over Bowling Green State at home


Khavon Thomas

Junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi evades a rusher during a NIU football game against Eastern Michigan on Oct. 2. NIU hosts Bowling Green State University. (Khavon Thomas | Northern Star)

By James Krause

DeKALB — The second half of the Huskies football season begins 2:30 p.m. Saturday in DeKalb when NIU hosts the Bowling Green State University Falcons.

The Huskies are off to a 4-2 start and coming off a late 22-20 victory against the University of Toledo Rockets last week. The win comes behind five field goals by redshirt sophomore kicker John Richardson, earning him MAC Player of the Week honors on special teams.

Even with his best record to start a season, head coach Thomas Hammock said his team is still seeking improvement with six conference games remaining.

“We still want to play a complete football game, and we haven’t done that yet,” Hammock said. “We have to play clean and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. Those are things we can continue to do better.”

For players who joined the Huskies in a COVID-19 shortened season, the game Saturday and beyond will further test their abilities to withstand a complete college football season. Under a physically demanding style of play, Hammock and his coaches have pushed players in the weight room.

“We’ve combated (wear and tear) in the weight room,” Hammock said. “Our goal is to be stronger in the weight room at the beginning of the season than at the end. Our kids are buying into that.”

BGSU enters Saturday with a record of  2-4 and a top 10 passing defense led by defensive coordinator and former Green Bay Packers assistant Eric Lewis. Hammock said Lewis’ NFL experience is helping the Falcons make good game plans for Mid-American Conference foes.

“I think they’ve got a good defensive scheme,” Hammock said. “(Lewis) has got a lot of things I’m familiar with at the NFL level as far as creating matchups, creating mismatches and trying to bring different pressures. We have to make sure we do a good job in pass protection and identifying the fronts and looks to protect our quarterback in the pocket.”

The Falcons offense is led by senior quarterback Matt McDonald, who has a MAC-high 23.2 completions a game in a pass-heavy offense. Redshirt senior linebacker Lance Deveaux Jr. said the defensive focus will be reading the offense with their eyes.

“Bowling Green is an offense that likes to mess with your eyes,” Deveaux said. “They’re going to try and throw some tricks at us and I think eye discipline is going to be important this week.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday at Huskie Stadium with the broadcast on ESPN+.