DeKALB — Injuries and suspensions have dealt a blow to the football team, but Head Coach Thomas Hammock said his team needs to perform with the players available.
“That’s what it is,” Hammock said. “Nobody cares. You think [University of Akron] cares about what injuries we have? No, they don’t."
Redshirt senior linebacker Antonio Jones-Davis and sophomore cornerback Antwain Walker are out for the year, Hammock said.
Jones-Davis’ absence on the field will be notable, as the Huskie has 51 total tackles, two sacks and one interception on the year.
Walker made his first collegiate start in the 2018 MAC Championship game against the University of Buffalo in Detroit and made a career-best six tackles, four solo.
Senior defensive tackle Ben LeRoy said the team is going to do well no matter the circumstances it’s faced as of late. It’s just another game for the Huskies, LeRoy said, and the team will prepare with that in mind.
“We’ve been just fine [without those injured],” LeRoy said. “Whoever’s on the field has stepped up because they know that’s their opportunity, and they’ve all been ready for it.”
LeRoy, along with Jack Heflin, redshirt junior defensive tackle, anchor the defense in the trenches; however, LeRoy is having a quiet season. Heflin and junior defensive tackle Weston Kramer have plugged the missing holes, tallying 34 total tackles together.
“I think as a unit [defensive tackles] are doing great up front,” LeRoy said. “We’re always giving great effort. There [are] always little things here and there [we] can improve, but I think overall we’ve been doing good.”
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Cole and junior wide receiver Tyrice Richie are also out due to suspensions. Their suspensions began Saturday before the game against Miami University – Ohio and will continue indefinitely, as Hammock said issues of discipline will be handled internally.
Cole has 21 total tackles this season, including 12 solo tackles and a safety. Richie, who joined the team in January from Dodge City Community College, had a high of 102 receiving yards Aug. 31 against Illinois State University in the opening game of the season but has failed to post more than 50 receiving yards in a game.
Leading up to Saturday’s 113th Homecoming game, the Huskies will compete for their 11th win against the Akron Zips.
All signs point to an NIU victory since Akron is 0-7 on the season, including a 0-3 MAC record that places them at the bottom of the MAC East Division.
NIU edged the Zips 36-26 Nov. 1 in a contest that had Akron down by three points through three quarters.
Redshirt junior running back Tre Harbison rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown, while redshirt sophomore cornerback Jalen McKie scored on a 23-yard interception return in the fourth quarter to claim the Huskies’ last road conference victory of the season.
The Huskies lead the all-time series against the Zips at 10-5. NIU hasn’t lost to Akron since 2005, including two victories at Huskie Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium.
First 2,000 fans will receive a Victor E. Huskie football bobblehead.