The biggest lesson learned from Saturday’s inaugural Huskie Bowl, the intrasquad scrimmage that closed out Northern Illinois’ 2013 spring practices, is that the Huskies are immeasurably better as one cohesive unit working together than they are split in half.
In a one-hour, 45-minute scrimmage largely dominated by the defenses, the NIU Black team coached by offensive line coach Joe Tripodi claimed a 31-7 victory over the NIU Cardinal team led by linebackers coach Kevin Kane. At a dinner later this semester, Tripodi and his team will dine on steak while the Cardinal team and Kane are left with hot dogs and beans.
NIU head coach Rod Carey said he was not surprised to see the defenses perform better under the Huskie Bowl format.
“The defense played really good,” Carey said. “Offense is about timing and chemistry. You mix up those parts and sometimes it doesn’t always go the way you want it. That was a little disappointing to see, but I thought the defense played well.”
Tripodi said regardless of the outcome, the first Huskie Bowl was a success.
“The competition was great,” he said. “It was fun to see. I said it last week, when you do something like this, with a draft and the Huskie Bowl atmosphere, it really provides life into spring practice. Being a player not too long ago, [I know] that last week of spring ball grinds out.
“We were a house divided [this week]. In the end, we’re all teammates. I know they had fun today. They got after each other.”
Collectively, the Huskie defense forced six turnovers with five interceptions and a fumble.
Cornerback Sean Evans of the NIU Black team picked off Cardinal quarterbacks Jordan Lynch and Matt Williams in the end zone to stop a pair of Cardinal team drives. Safety Dechane Durante and linebacker Rasheen Lemon also had interceptions for NIU Black, while Cardinal cornerback Paris Logan stopped the Black team’s first drive with an INT. Defensive end Stephen O’Neal recovered a fumble to stop a Black team drive and recorded a 10-yard sack.
The game belong to the defense through the first six possessions (three by each team) before the Black Team broke through when quarterback Matt McIntosh hit fullback Rob Sterling in the corner of the end zone for a nine-yard score. Two possessions later, Cardinal evened the score on a 29-yard pass from Matt Williams to Angelo Sebastiano that tipped off of Tommylee Lewis into Sebastiano’s arms.
Black took the lead for good on its eighth possession as Drew Hare hit Juwan Brescacin on a 30-yard pass into the end zone. Hare and Brescacin led the Black offense on the day as Hare completed 7-of-10 passes for 143 yards and was the only quarterback who did not throw an interception in the game. Brescacin’s three catches went for 120 yards as out-jumped two defensive backs on the longest reception of the day, a 48-yarder. Williams completed 10-of-17 passes for 88 yards, while Angelo Sebastiano led the Cardinal with seven catches for 92 yards and the touchdown.
The only other score recorded during the “long drive” portion of the game came on the final possession from the minus 25 when Mathew Sims hit a 42-yard field goal for the Black squad. The team’s final two scores came on its final two drives, which per the Huskie Bowl rules, started from the team’s 25-yard line. Running backs Cameron Stingily (10 yards) and Alex Morrow (2 yards) both got in for the scores.
Kane said his offense was never able to get into a rhythm.
“I’m a little disappointed, I wish we could have run the ball a little better,” Kane said. “”The offensive line never really worked together as a unit. The running backs never [practiced] with the O-line, but that’s part of the deal. We still have to run our offense. It’s a culmination of a long spring. Guys are just trying to make plays. In the end, I’m a defensive guy so I was excited to see that.”
NIU All-America quarterback Lynch was in for just three series for the Cardinal team, and across the board, the Huskie Bowl provided the chance for coaches to see younger players in a competitive situation, some for the first time.
“That’s why you play a game like this,” Carey said. “[Wide receiver] Charlie Miller, who plays one position, was playing four or five out there today. He had a day where he was getting a ton of reps. A bunch of young guys over on the defensive side were in there a lot. It’s great for the young guys. It’s a really big positive that way.”
Northern Illinois’ next game at Huskie Stadium is Saturday, Sept. 21, when the Huskies take on Eastern Illinois in the 2013 home opener.