Huskies edged by Bobcats sans Lombardi


Marco Sotelo Avila

The Huskie defensive line arranging at the 15 yard line, just before the Toledo Rockets run for the first touchdown of the game in the first quarter on Saturday at Huskie Stadium. (Marco Sotelo Avila | Northern Star)

DeKALB – The Huskies (2-6, 1-3 MAC) fell to 2-6 after a close battle against the Ohio University Bobcats (5-3, 3-1 MAC).

Redshirt senior quarterback Rocky Lombardi was not in uniform for Saturday’s matchup against Ohio. Last week against Eastern Michigan University, Lombardi saw his first game action since week three but wasn’t available for Saturday’s game.

Sophomore quarterback Justin Lynch got the start for the second straight week. Lynch ran the ball for a majority of the game and was also asked to throw the ball on plays where the Huskies needed to gain yards. Lynch rushed the ball 11 times for 10 yards. He went 9-for-18 passing with 110 yards. Prior to Saturday’s game, Lynch had only attempted one pass all season.

“I thought Lynch did a great job managing the game early, and we had a chance to win the game, but we came up just a couple plays short,” head football coach Thomas Hammock said.

The running game was very important; with Lombardi and redshirt freshman quarterback Ethan Hampton out, NIU utilized the same strategies as last week, including direct snaps to the running backs and designed quarterback runs. Sophomore running backs Harrison Waylee and Antario Brown were able to elevate the Huskies’ offense again, putting up a combined 257 rushing yards in the game.

“We have to be able to run the ball to give ourselves a chance,” Hammock said. “We had some second and long situations where we were able to get the first down, and that changed the game.”

The Huskies had zero touchdowns in the first half, their only points coming on a pair of field goals by redshirt junior kicker John Richardson. NIU’s running backs were held to only 84 yards in the first half. The running game was more effective in the second half, as Brown and Waylee gained 180 yards, bringing the game total to 267 yards. Lynch went 4-for-7 in the first half for 58 yards.

The defense was able to hold Ohio to only 10 points in the first half. Ohio was able to score on their first drive, but the Huskies’ defense was able to hold the Bobcats’ offense to a field goal the rest of the first half.

Junior wide receiver Kacper Rutkiewicz scored the Huskies’ only touchdown of the game. The touchdown came in the third quarter when Rutkiewicz rushed to the left side and scored an 11-yard rushing touchdown. That was Rutkiewicz’s only rushing attempt for the game. He also had one reception for 41 yards.

After Rutkiewicz’s touchdown, the Huskies attempted a two-point conversion and scored on a pass from senior wide receiver Shemar Thornton to redshirt senior wide receiver Cole Tucker. This two-point play tied the game at 17 with 1:31 remaining in the third quarter.

After giving up a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Huskies attempted to mount a comeback drive but were unsuccessful, as Lynch threw four straight incomplete passes, turning the ball over to Ohio.

Ohio took a knee to run the clock out on the game, giving the Huskies a 24-17 loss, their sixth on the season. With this loss, the Huskies lost eligibility for a bowl game at the end of the season.

“Proud of the effort from the young men in our program, they played as hard as they could play,” Hammock said. “They (Ohio) made a couple more plays than we did, but it was a team game, and we did some of the things we wanted to be able to do.”

Richardson had another good week kicking the football, coming off a performance that led to his selection as MAC West Special Teams Player of the Week. Last week against Eastern Michigan, Richardson went 4-for-4 on field goals for the Huskies. This week, Richardson was also perfect, going 3-for-3 and scoring nine of the Huskies’ 17 points.

The Huskies do not have a game this upcoming weekend. Their next contest will be against Central Michigan University at 6 p.m. on Nov. 2 at Huskie Stadium. Live stats will be available via SIDEARM Sports, and can be watched on ESPNU.