Huskies ready for Ball State battle

NIU looks to rebound from loss to Kent State in game for the Bronze Stalk Trophy on ESPN2


Courtesy of Brian Fisher

COVID-freshman wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph makes a catch in the first half of NIU’s loss to Kent State on Nov. 3, The Huskies enter their game against Ball State with a 6-3 record and a 4-1 conference record.

By James Krause

DeKALB — The football team hopes to regain the Bronze Stalk Trophy from the Ball State University Cardinals at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Huskie Stadium.

The Huskies won and retained the Bronze Stalk for a decade but have yet to win the rivalry game since the arrival of head coach Thomas Hammock. Players are as hungry as ever to bring the trophy back to DeKalb with Mid-American Conference championship hopes at stake.

“As freshmen, we didn’t really know what the Bronze Stalk meant to us,” redshirt freshman tight end Tristan Tewes said. “The older guys kind of brought us along, and now we’ve got to get that thing back.”

Along with the losing streak to Ball State, NIU is coming off a 52-47 loss to the Kent State University Golden Flashes. The loss came in spite of record-setting performances by junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi and COVID-freshman wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph that led to 663 yards of total offense.

Hammock talked about Rudolph being a shining example for other receivers, who soon might see more opportunities present themselves with an injury to redshirt senior wide receiver Tyrice Richie potentially sidelining him.

“(Rudolph) is an example of someone who came in, did it the hard way and he’s starting to flourish at the right time,” Hammock said. “That makes us more dynamic and opens things up for Tucker, Travis and Joiner. When you have someone teams identify as a person to take away, it opens it up for others.” 

Lombardi also left the Kent State game after a hit to the head, but there’s no official word on his status for the Ball State game.

NIU failed to keep pace with Kent State, allowing the most points in a game to a conference opponent in Hammock’s tenure. Sophomore cornerback Jordan Gandy said the Huskies defense needs to work on the basics to prevent defensive lapses.

“I just think we have to get back to the basics,” Gandy said. “Things like tackling, effort, knowing the scheme and executing are all pretty basic stuff we haven’t done as great a job with recently. We just need to just focus on it.”

Ball State enters 5-4 overall and 3-2 in conference play, possessing a slew of playmakers. Fifth-year senior wide receiver Justin Hall has 579 receiving yards this season, with junior wide receiver Jayshon Jackson, a transfer from the University of Cincinnati, serving as their second option with 485 yards. 

“They like to shift with motion and jet sweeps, so we have to make sure we have good eye discipline,” Hammock said. “(Hall) is a guy that we have to make sure we know where he’s at on the field.”

Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT Wednesday, with the game being broadcast on ESPN2.