DeKALB — The NIU football team couldn’t contain the Central Michigan University Chippewas’ run game, nor produce anything on the ground in a 48-10 road loss Saturday.
The Huskies’ rushing attack couldn’t put together an attack during Saturday's game, finishing with only 22 rushing yards. NIU struggled running in part due to an injury in the first quarter to senior center Christopher Perez, who was shown on the CBS Sports Network broadcast walking in with crutches and on a boot.
Redshirt junior quarterback Marcus Childers started the game for NIU before senior quarterback Ross Bowers took over in the first quarter. Childers led the team with 19 rushing yards, while Bowers threw for a touchdown and three interceptions.
Head Coach Thomas Hammock said the Chippewas dominated NIU on both sides of the ball, leaving NIU to try and find ways to pick up the pieces going into a bye week.
“Give credit to Central Michigan; they went out there and they dominated us," Hammock said in a news release. "It’s as simple as that, and we’re not going to make excuses. We’ve got to respond; we’ve got to come back and figure out what went wrong.”
The NIU defense couldn’t stop CMU on the ground, allowing 327 rushing yards. Johnathan Ward, CMU senior running back, finished with 143 rushing yards, and Tyrone Scott, redshirt first-year wide receiver, finished with 138 rushing yards.
Hammock said his players failed to make plays when they had the chance, even when opportunities were plenty.
“For us, when [we] get an opportunity, [we] have to finish the play,” Hammock said. “We didn’t finish the play. We had guys in position. Whether that’s making the catch or the tackle or the interception.”
The Chippewas picked up a big lead before ten minutes had elapsed. Senior quarterback Quentin Dormady threw a touchdown pass on the opening possession, and backup senior quarterback Tommy Lazzaro scored a rushing touchdown.
After two stalled drives under Childers, Bowers entered the game on NIU’s third possession and made an immediate impact with completions to Mitchell Brinkman, redshirt junior tight end, setting up NIU in the CMU redzone.
John Richardson, redshirt first-year kicker, made a 33-yard field goal to score the first points of the game for NIU.
The NIU defense wasn’t as quick to rebound, giving up its third CMU touchdown in as many drives. Sophomore running back Kobe Lewis rushed for a 16-yard touchdown to make the score 21-3 at the end of the first quarter.
The Huskies found some life early in the second quarter. NIU limited the Chippewas to a 33-yard field goal by senior kicker Ryan Tice, followed by a quick NIU touchdown drive that ended with Bowers throwing a nine-yard pass to Spencer Tears, redshirt senior wide receiver.
CMU’s Dormady exposed more cracks in the Huskies’ secondary with a pair of touchdown passes before halftime. The first one was a 39-yard pass to a wide open junior tight end Tony Poljan, who ran unstopped to the endzone.
The second touchdown came with 49 seconds left in the half to redshirt first-year wide receiver Tyrone Scott, making it 38-10 at halftime in favor of the Chippewas.
Offensive production went from bad to worse in the second half. Bowers stalled the Huskies opening possession of the second half with an interception by senior linebacker Michael Oliver.
NIU escaped falling further behind thanks to a missed field goal by CMU only for Bowers to throw another interception, this time to junior safety Gage Kerski.
Bowers threw his third interception in the third quarter to Montrae Branswell, redshirt first-year cornerback, on the following drive. The Chippewas finally scored off a takeaway with a three-yard touchdown run by Ward to start the fourth quarter.
Just as NIU seemed to be at their lowest point offensively, sophomore running back Jordan Nettles fumbled for NIU’s fourth turnover in a row. CMU would tack on a field goal for the eventual 48-10 final.
The win makes CMU bowl eligible at 6-4 overall and 4-2 in Mid-American Conference play. The loss puts the Huskies in danger of elimination from the conference championship and bowl eligibility with a 3-6 record overall and 2-3 conference record.
The Huskies will have a 10-day rest period before their first of three mid-week games to close the regular season. The Huskies will play 7 p.m. Nov. 13 against the University of Toledo at Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio.