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NIU

Smith sets school record in win

NIU defensive end Sutton Smith (15) gets up after tackling Ball State Cardinals running back Caleb Huntley (36) at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb November 9.
NIU defensive end Sutton Smith (15) gets up after tackling Ball State Cardinals running back Caleb Huntley (36) at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb November 9.

When he was interviewed earlier this year, Sutton Smith said he kind of hurt his chances of becoming a running back during a drill in a practice his freshman season.

He was struggling to break on to the roster. There was a fumble. A defender picked up the ball. And Smith leveled him.

Sutton Smith the running back went away that day. Sutton Smith the All-American candidate at defensive end was born.

On Thursday, Smith set the school record for tackles for a loss in a season when he sacked Ball State quarterback Drew Plitt late in the second quarter in the Huskies' 63-17 win.

There's still at least three games left this year for the sophomore to pad that record. And it's not like his 22 TFLs are "good-for-a-mid-major" good. He's leading the country in the category and garnering All-American attention.

“Everyone is much faster, and stronger,” Smith said in that September interview. “Then I kind of screwed myself in a way. There was a fumbled snap, and I went and tackled the guy who picked it up on defense, and the next day I was in Coach [Rod] Carey’s office being told I’m getting moved to defense. It was funny, but everything worked out for the greater good.”

He added a sack in the second half, pushing his total on the year to 11.5. He also picked up two quarterback hurries in the win over the Cardinals.

After the game Thursday, Smith once again credited his time in the film room – something he credited back in that September interview.

"I think it's because of my teammates, especially everyone on the D-line," Smith said. "We all get in there in the film room and talk among our selves about how to get better. It's really just about getting in the film room and grinding it out."

Smith was part of a defense that notched 18 tackles for a loss in the game – for those scoring at home that's one more than points scored by the Cardinals. No Huskie had more than two TFLs in the game, and Smith was one of them.

Just another day of making life more difficult for people who play the position he used to.

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