The sound of shoulder pads popping filled Huskie Stadium Wednesday as the Northern Illinois football team practiced in shells for the first time in the preseason.
Despite overcast skies with intermittent showers, the Huskies’ energy on the field could not be dampened by the weather. In the end, though, the defense owned the day with several big plays on the day.
“The defense had a lot of energy on the first day in pads,” said NIU head coach Dave Doeren. “You could see that they had played a lot together. They did a really nice job of getting in the backfield and causing some problems for the offense early on. The offense settled in at the end of practice. I thought our ‘skelly’ offense did really well at the beginning. As far as the beginning inside drill, our run-play action series, our defense definitely won that part of practice.”
In the first team session of the day, players like Dechane Durante, Tyrone Clark, Daniel Green and Bobby Winkel set the tone for the defense. Durante made two impressive pass breakups, outstretching tight end Tim Semisch on the first play of the session followed by breaking up a pass intended for Tommylee Lewis.
Meanwhile, Clark embodied the high-energy play of the defense when he shot through the offensive line and brought down the running back behind the line of scrimmage. A couple plays later, the senior linebacker again found himself in the backfield when he jumped in front of quarterback Jordan Lynch, batting down the pass just feet in front of Lynch.
Green would force a fumble from his defensive end spot, while Winkel capped off the first team session when he picked off a scrambling Matt McIntosh.
The offense, though, was not held quiet the whole practice. In the 7-on-7 session, Lynch lofted a pass to the sideline to a wide-open Lewis for a 24-yard gain. The sophomore wide receiver from Riviera Beach, Fla., would haul in two other passes – including one for a 10-yard gain – before the session was over.
The offense’s momentum carried over to the final team session of practice when they staged an impressive no-huddle drive keyed by long carries from Daniels and Lynch, along with a long catch and run from Martel Moore. After a strong push from the defense near the goal line, the offense finally found the endzone when Daniels burst through the middle from four yards out.
It was the defense, though, who would have the final say when they stymied the offense on two drives.
The team returns to practice tomorrow at 3:15 p.m. with their final practice in shells before their first full pads practice Friday.
Tickets for the Sept. 1 NIU-Iowa contest at Soldier Field are on sale to the general public through Ticketmaster, as well as the NIU Athletics Ticket Office. Fans can order tickets online at Ticketmaster.com, by calling the Ticketmaster toll-free number at (800) 745-3000 or in person at any Ticketmaster outlet. The NIU Athletics Ticket Office is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Northern Illinois 2012 football season tickets are on sale now through the NIU Athletics External Office at (815) 753-1923 or online at NIUHuskies.com for just $120 for the full six-game Huskie Stadium season.
Mini plans, featuring any three Huskie Stadium games, can be purchased for $60, while NIU’s new HuskieLand Plan tickets provide a ticket to the home opener versus Tennessee-Martin (Sept. 8), the Kansas game (Sept. 22) and the MAC West rivalry game versus Toledo (Nov. 14) along with $45 in gift cards from Buffalo Wild Wings, Village Commons Bookstore and Hy-Vee.