Bronze Stalk on the line, Bowers says offense needs to improve

Senior quarterback Ross Bowers (left) and Redshirt senior safety Trayshon Foster attend a press conference on Tuesday at the Yordon Center.

DeKALB — With 10 consecutive Bronze Stalk wins since 2009, the Huskies have a chance to keep the trophy Saturday at the 12th annual game between NIU and the Ball State Cardinals for this season’s Mid-American Conference opening game.

The last time NIU and Ball State met was in 2018 when NIU retained the Bronze Stalk trophy after posting a 24-16 victory over the Cardinals in Muncie, Indiana.

Head Coach Thomas Hammock said this game will be aggressive, and the week leading up to it will be an important one. Hammock said keeping the Bronze Stalk will be a good thing for the Huskies, and having a trophy game will be great.

“They take pride in it; they’ve had it before, and I’m sure on Ball State’s side they’re looking to get a trophy,” Hammock said. “I think it’s going to be a very, very competitive game, and we have to make sure we do well this week preparing for this football game.”

The Huskies will begin conference play against the Cardinals, and Hammock said this gives the team an opportunity to improve and focus on conference play.

Redshirt junior running back Tre Harbison said he wants to keep the Bronze Stalk trophy this year and continue the tradition. Harbison has played in two Bronze Stalk games, rushing for 51 yards and two touchdowns Oct. 6 in a 24-16 victory and 52 yards Nov. 9, 2017 in a blowout 63-17 win.

“[The trophy] means a lot to everybody [who has] been here,” Harbison said. “It’s the stalk. It’s an ugly trophy, but it’s our trophy. We have no intentions of giving it back anytime soon.”

NIU has scored more than 40 points in the previous four Bronze Stalk games played at home. However, the Huskies have yet to put up anything close to 40 points this season.

The Huskies have been held to less than 20 points in three of four games this season.

Last season, the Huskies held a 2-3 record before the Ball State bout. In those five games, the Huskies averaged 260 total offensive yards.

Although they’re at 1-3 this season, the Huskies have improved on offense, averaging 357.25 total yards this season.

However, senior quarterback Ross Bowers said he knows what the offense can improve on going into this game.

“It’s just eliminating the mental mistakes first, whether that be pre- snap penalties or post-snap penalties that are stupid,” Bowers said. “Stuff where we’re really shooting ourselves in the foot.”

This will be Bower’s first game playing in the MAC, and he has been consistent under center so far. The Huskie is averaging 272.5 yards in the air.

The last time NIU lost to Ball State was Nov. 5, 2008 when the Cardinals took a 45-14 win in Muncie.

This season, senior Huskie athletes are hoping not to be the senior class to lose the Bronze Stalk.

Marcus Kelly, redshirt senior defensive tackle, said he wants to keep the trophy in DeKalb as long as possible.

Redshirt senior safety Trayshon Foster said even though the trophy is ugly, he loves it.

“For the past few years I’ve been able to take pictures on Instagram with it, and hopefully, with our execution and game plan, I can take a fourth and final picture for my senior year,” Foster said. “It’s good in my heart, and we’ve had it for the past 10 years. I don’t want to be the senior class that ends the streak.”

The Huskies will take on the Cardinals 2:30 p.m. at Huskie Stadium.

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