NIU carrying confidence into CMU

Football will try to extend winning streak to five against the Chippewas Saturday in Mount Pleasant


Courtesy of NIU Athletics

Redshirt junior linebacker Dillon Thomas celebrates after a 34-26 win for NIU over Bowling Green Oct. 16 at Huskie Stadium.

By James Krause

DeKALB — The Huskies’ four-game winning streak will be put to the test against their divisional rivals, the Central Michigan University Chippewas, at 11 a.m. Saturday in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

NIU enters their upcoming game 5-2 overall, perfect in three Mid-American Conference games and coming off a 34-26 victory over Bowling Green State University. However, a loss to CMU could put the Chippewas in control of the MAC West Division.

Head coach Thomas Hammock said his team is confident but needs to stay focused on the game ahead.

“The thing we talked about this morning in our team meeting was what we’ve done in the past doesn’t matter,” Hammock said. “The only thing that matters is trying to be 1-0 this week. Sure, they walk into the building with a little more swagger. I think that comes with it, but you have to be able to refocus on the task at hand.”

Hammock and his coaching staff have a difficult choice to make in who will be the Huskies’ primary back against CMU. Hammock said Tuesday that freshman running back Antario Brown will play this weekend after leaving in the first quarter against Bowling Green with an injury. COVID-freshman running back Jay Ducker rushed for 210 yards in relief of Brown.

Hammock said competition in practice for starting spots is high, and it’ll continue to translate to on-field play.

“We’ve had some very competitive practices, and I think that’s showing up during the game,” Hammock said. “The more we continue to do that, the better we’ll be long term.”

Junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi only threw the ball eight times for 38 yards against Bowling Green, but Hammock said opening up the passing game has been a focus in practice early this week.

“We really emphasized the passing game,” Hammock said. “We want to be balanced…the way our passing game looked today, we’re excited about being able to maintain some balance.”

The Huskies passing game might be more prominent against CMU as the Chippewas passing defense ranks last in the MAC. By contrast, CMU is ranked second in the conference in rushing yards allowed per game.  

NIU will try to contain redshirt freshman running back Lew Nichols III defensively. Nichols leads the MAC in rushing yards with 727.

Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 11 a.m. CT Saturday with the game broadcast nationally on ESPNU.