Head to Head: The Northern Star of NIU


The University of Utah football team warms up before the NCAA football game vs. Weber State at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT on Thursday August 30, 2018. (Photo by Curtis Lin | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor


The Utes are set to take on the Huskies of Northern Illinois this Saturday. I reached out to Marcel Carrasco, the sports editor of Northern Star, the NIU student newspaper, to talk about replacing Sutton Smith, NIU’s new coaching staff and other things for the upcoming game.


Sammy Mora: The defense is replacing Sutton Smith. Is there any concern with how the new linebackers will do in his absence?

Marcel Carrasco: Smith was a great pass rusher for the Huskies and would set the tone for the defense. Those types of players are never easy to replace. What the defense now has is a linebacker committee that can tackle in the open and keep opponents in front of them.


SM: The team has a whole new coaching staff this season. What does coach Thomas Hammock bring to this program?

MC: Hammock brings in a new mindset above all. His coaching philosophy focuses on the mental and psychological preparation just as much as it does on the physical. Hammock brings years of experience working under Baltimore Ravens’ Head Coach John Harbaugh. Hammock can bring the offensive spark the Huskies lacked last season.


SM: Last year’s game was a close one until a late-game pick-six. What are you hoping to see from the game this year?

MC: I hope to see the experienced guys step up. Many of them are returning for a rematch and I believe they have had this game marked on their calendars. The Huskies have a great chance to show what many of us in DeKalb already know — they can ball. We know Utah is a nationally ranked program and give credit where credit is due. However, it will be 11 vs 11 out on the field, and the Huskies want to win just as much as Utah does.


SM: Utah is familiar with both quarterbacks on NIU’s roster. How does Ross Bowers change the way that the offense is ran?

MC: Senior quarterback Ross Bowers has one game under his belt as NIU quarterback and it took him a while to get going against Illinois State University. He was constantly under pressure at first, until his offensive line was able to hold the pocket. When Bowers had time to throw, he could do damage. Redshirt junior Marcus Childers is a great quarterback. He can run the ball and make throws when needed. Childers is a dual-threat quarterback and under former head coach Rod Carey he ran the ball exceptionally. However, Hammock’s offense is better suited for Bowers.


SM: What do you think is the number one thing that the Huskies need to do to stay in the game against Utah?

MC: Keep the ball. On the offense, running the ball will give the Huskies a chance to control the tempo. On the defense, they have to force three-and-outs. Our defense will mostly be players who faced the Utes last season including redshirt senior linebacker Kyle Pugh, redshirt senior defensive lineman Quintin Wynn and redshirt senior safety Mykelti Williams.


The U football team will face NIU at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Sept. 7 at 11:00 a.m.


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