DeKALB – Jackson Abresch has always had a knack for making big plays.
Abresch, a safety for Northern Illinois, had two touchdowns during NIU’s 63-17 rout of Ball State Thursday, both scores came on special teams off a pair of blocked punts. Thursday’s game marked the third straight NIU has had a block on special teams.
“Jackson is playing his best football,” NIU coach Rod Carey said. “That’s because of how he practices and how he prepares. He’s persevered through a lot. … I’m really proud of him.”
Abresch said he and his teammates knew the opportunity for a block would be there against Ball State.
“Getting a block has been a huge emphasis the past few weeks,” Abresch said. “We know their scheme and that we could get a block. We’ve been fortunate enough to get it the past few weeks.”
NIU’s success on special teams has raised the unit’s standards. Abresch said if the Huskies don’t come up with a block, they come away disappointed.
Luckily for Abresch and his teammates, there were plenty of chances against the Cardinals. NIU’s defense forced Ball State punter Nathan Snyder to punt eight times, and Huskie special teams blocked two.
The first block occurred at the end of the first quarter and put NIU in the driver’s seat, according to Carey.
“When we got the punt block to go up, 21-7, I thought that was a momentum shift,” Carey said. “Ball State … I’ve got a lot of empathy for them. Coach Mike Neu is a good coach. Their team plays hard. When we got up, 21-7, it deflated them a little bit. … I thought we rode that momentum.”
On the second block, Snyder fumbled the snap in the end zone and was never able to get off a clean kick as Jauan Wesley blocked the football and Abresch hopped on it for the Huskies’ final score. NIU’s 63 points against Ball State are the most the Huskies have scored since Nov. 2, 2013.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my teammates on scoring those touchdowns,” Abresch said. “On both instances, they blocked it and I was just in the right spot. It was good execution by the whole unit.”
Abresch has been plagued for most of his NIU career with injuries, but the senior is finally healthy and putting together his best season as a Huskie. Carey said Abresch’s contributions haven’t been limited to special teams.
“I say it all the time, seniors have got to play like seniors if you’re going to have a good season,” Carey said. “He has played his best football, not just on special teams, he is playing a substantial amount on defense too.”
The Huskies are aware as they head into their final two games of the season, their opponents might place more of an emphasis on blocking on special teams. Abresch, however, isn’t phased and said he’s confident in the coaching staff’s game plan.
“Our coaches do a great job of finding some flaw or something we can take advantage of in [our opponents’] scheme,” Abresch said. “Next week, maybe it won’t be me. But I think he’ll do a great job of finding someone.”