NIU wins season opener over ISU in Thomas Hammock’s debut as head coach

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Northern Illinois opened up their season Saturday with a 24-10 win over Illinois State. The victory also came during Thomas Hammock’s debut as the Huskies’ head coach.

The first half only saw field goals from both teams, starting the third quarter tied at three. NIU’s quarterback Ross Bowers eventually found some much-needed chemistry with wide receiver Tyrice Ritchie and connected for a 22-yard touchdown and another from 68 yards out. Bowers went 20-33 for 299 yards. Ritchie had three receptions for 102 yards.

The Huskies defense also saw some action with a pick six by cornerback Jalen McKie. He returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown to help seal the deal for NIU’s victory over ISU. McKie is also the son of former Bears fullback Jason McKie.

“I thought our team did a great job not flinching,” Hammock said. “They handled the moment. [We’re going to] watch the tape. There’s a lot of things I know we can do better. … I know I was underselling before this first game, but I really like our team and I like our players.”

Rockford Lutheran alum James Robinson was hoping for more from both him and his Redbirds team. The running back was held to just 16 yards on 13 carries.

“It’s the first game of the season,” Robinson explained. “We got a long season ahead of us. It’s pretty frustrating. I mean I hate losing… everybody would say ‘Yeah, we got a long season,’ but yeah. Tonight I’m just going to be thinking about what things we could’ve done differently. Obviously we can’t get it back but I mean I think we’ll be good the rest of the season.”

The NIU Huskies return to action on Saturday, September 7th when they travel to play the Utah Utes.

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