FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Ken Bishop seemed to be in the backfield on every play in Saturday’s 63-19 win over UMass.
The senior defensive tackle disrupted the Minutemen’s front five, finishing with a team-high nine tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. He didn’t play most of the second staff as NIU had its starters out of the game because of the blowout.
He also added his first career interception. Bishop intercepted UMass quarterback Mike Wegzyn in the second quarter and returned it to the Minutemen 6-yard line, but couldn’t quite get to the end zone.
The pick still set up a Cameron Stingily touchdown run.
“Basically, that was a play that I saw in practice, we practiced for it. It was a screen play and I saw the offensive guard try to let me go and the running back came at me,” Bishop said. “I just played the proper technique. Keep my eyes on the ball, make a play.”
One of four junior-college products on NIU’s roster, the Huskies definitely hit on Bishop when they recruited him out of Ellsworth Community College in Iowa.
Bishop, who had interest from BCS schools, now has 44 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss on the season.
He finished the 2012 campaign with 55 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss.
“His work habits in practice have gotten better,” NIU head coach Rod Carey said. “I think he’ll be the first one to admit, when he came here, [he] probably wasn’t quite in tune with the pace of things. And now he’s in tune with the pace of things and it’s paying off in the game.”
NIU gave up only 324 yards against UMass, the Huskies’ lowest yardage total of the season. NIU will need the same kind of pressure it showed Saturday when Ball State and quarterback Keith Wenning come to town on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
The Huskies sacked Wegzyn twice and had seven tackles for loss as a defense.
Bishop called last season, his first at NIU, a transition year, whereas this season he’s taken his play to the next level. The Lauderhill, Fla. also credits his preparation for getting used to the tempo and the overall aspects of FBS football.
“Practicing, really. Just being able to come out every day and have a good practice,” he said. “A chance for what I do in practice to (translate) on to the game field.”