DeKALB - Any other year, Northern Illinois wouldn't mind sharing the same record as Notre Dame. Just not this year. The Huskies fell to new lows following another disappointing effort, losing 21-19 to lowly Eastern Michigan at Huskie Stadium Saturday afternoon. At 0-3, the Huskies and the Irish both remain winless this season. At least Northern Illinois can boast some good news from its recent association with Notre Dame, other than Athletic Director Jim Phillips. Several sources have confirmed to the Daily Chronicle that Notre Dame quarterback Demetrius Jones is enrolled at Northern Illinois. Jones sat in the student section Saturday at Huskie Stadium. That was the lone bit of good news for Huskie Nation. The Huskies dropped to 0-3 for the first time since opening up the 1999 campaign with four losses in a row. The seven straight winning seasons mark is on life support following another back-breaking loss at Huskie Stadium. “This was another tough one,” said NIU coach Joe Novak. “We have to make plays and get over the hump. There's a fine line between going 0-3 and 3-0. I still believe in this team. I told them that there will be no pouting or head-hanging. We will keep plugging away and working hard because we have a lot to play for yet.” Dating back to last season, the Huskies have lost four straight games. Saturday's loss to Eastern Michigan sends another glaring message that this year is shaping up to be a rebuilding season. A victory over the Eagles was expected. The Huskies had won the last six games in the series by big margins. The Eagles entered the game with one victory in their last 14 games. Exiting the postgame press conference inside the Yordon Center, Eastern Michigan coach Jeff Genyk smiled and quipped, “It's going to be a pleasant ride home.” The Eagles (1-2, 1-0 MAC West) knocked the Huskies into the conference slums, jostling for position with Buffalo and Temple as one of the worst MAC teams through three games. The injury bug struck again, crippling an already-demoralized team. Defensive tackle Craig Rusch (right ACL knee injury) and end Anthony Antonacci (right knee) both left the game with possible season-ending injuries. Last week, Tim McCarthy and Montell Clanton both suffered severe knee injuries. “I wish I knew why this was happening,” Novak said. “We've had a rush of knees here lately.” Even steady kicker Chris Nendick came up short on adding to his legacy. Nendick's 50-yard kicker was blocked by EMU's T.J. Lang as time expired. The Huskies committed several mistakes on the final drive to force Nendick to attempt a field goal from EMU's 33-yard line. Center Eddie Adamski and wide receiver Greg Turner were both whistled for holding penalties. Early in the game, the Huskies delighted the crowd of 20,012 fans by taking a 13-0 lead. Late in the second quarter, Eastern Michigan awoke from its morning slumber when quarterback Andy Schmitt hit DeAnthony White for a 39-yard pass to NIU's 1-yard line. Replays showed that White didn't catch the ball, but Pierre Walker scored on the next play to slice the deficit to 13-7 with 22 seconds left in the half. Before the long pass, the Eagles hadn't been able to move the ball, with 46 yards in 25 plays. “It was important,” Genyk said of Schmitt's pass to White. “Our quarterback Andy Schmitt came off reconstructive shoulder surgery and was very tentative, even on that play.” Sophomore tailback Justin Anderson shined in his first career start. He established a new career high with 168 yards rushing and caught a team-high six passes for 45 yards, totaling a robust 213 yards. The Huskie defense had its third straight second-half meltdown. Eastern Michigan tallied 258 of its 378 total yards after halftime. The Eagles gained 155 of their 189 yards rushing in the final 30 minutes, allowing them to control the clock (21:14 to 8:46). White provided the big highlight of the game with a 68-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles a 14-13 edge. Northern Illinois quarterback Dan Nicholson gift-wrapped EMU's final touchdown. Eastern Michigan linebacker Daniel Holzclaw picked off a bad pass by Nicholson. Less than two minutes later, the Eagles expanded the lead to 21-13 with Walker's 1-yard run midway through the fourth. “They were giving us a lot of stuff underneath, but the interception was because of a miscommunication and a good defensive play,” Nicholson said. Nicholson, who completed 20-of-28 passes for 160 yards, redeemed himself by piloting a four-play scoring drive. He drilled a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Davis. The Huskies elected to attempt a two-point play to tie the score. Nicholson rolled to his right, staring down Turner from the snap of the ball. Nicholson's pass sailed over Turner's head, as Anderson stood wide open on the opposite side. “I had to move around and readjust my throw,” Nicholson said. “I just didn't put the ball on him.” Stopping the Eagles on a three-and-out, the Huskies' nine-play drive ended when Nendick's low kick was blocked. Novak said the Huskies can still salvage the season with a strong conference finish. “Nobody in this league is that much better than anybody else,” Novak said. “Certainly, we've got to win our other four division games now.” Bobby Narang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view a photo gallery of the NIU game versus Eastern Michigan, go to http://www.daily-chronicle.com/gallery/