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NIU football: Small victories lead to big results for Perez, Huskies O-Line

Individual plays lead to big results for Perez, Huskies O-Line

Northern Illinois running back Tre Harbison carries the ball against Vanderbilt in the first half of a game Sept. 28 in Nashville, Tenn.
Northern Illinois running back Tre Harbison carries the ball against Vanderbilt in the first half of a game Sept. 28 in Nashville, Tenn.

DeKALB – CJ Perez sees no sense in getting overly animated with celebrating success on the offensive line for the Northern Illinois Huskies.

But he also admits it’s worth acknowledging the things the offensive line does well on individual plays.

“There’s always stuff we can get better at,” Perez said. “I think what we talked about though is there’s small victories on every single play and I think we don’t have to throw a party about them. But it is good to acknowledge them and realize we are doing this better. We’re getting better as a group.”

The Huskies, after rushing for negative yards in the first half of Saturday’s 39-36 NIU win over Ohio, recorded
171 second-half rushing yards on their way to a season-high 510 yards of offense. NIU didn’t have 500 yards of offense in any game in 2018.

“They’re keeping the quarterback clean for the most part, and they’re opening up seams in the running game,” NIU coach Thomas Hammock said. “I’ve been very impressed with the resiliency of that group. [Offensive line] Coach [Daryl] Agpalsa is doing a great job just grinding those guys to be as good as they can be.”

Time and again, the Huskies opened up big lanes in the running game and gave Bowers more time to look for plays down the field in the passing game.

“I think what is so special about our position is four guys could win their job, and if one guy doesn’t, then Ross is on the ground,” Perez said. “That’s what’s so important, and that’s what’s so cool about our position.”

After the Ohio victory, Bowers was vocal about being pleased with the sense of urgency in the huddle. Perez reiterated that the huddle and before the play preparation is huge in making the quarterback feel comfortable.

“Ross truly does care about that bond, and obviously we can make this play, this play and this play, but truly, Ross believes it starts before the play,” Perez said. “If the huddle isn’t neat and tight or if we’re not locked in, if we’re not eyes on him, he doesn’t truly believe in the play at that moment. That’s where he truly believes in all the little things going into the play.”

After Marcus Childers’ 70-yard run helped the Huskies offense get going in the win over the Bobcats, Perez and Hammock acknowledged the benefits of using Childers in the offense going forward.

“It’s nice that we’re actually bringing in Marcus now because Marcus truly is a dual-threat guy,” Perez said. “It’s nice because of how we were so used to that dual-threat change-up last year, and it’s nice to have it back because teams are starting to scheme; I do think we like to throw the ball.”

The success in Childers’ limited use has Hammock hopeful about what the experienced backup quarterback can do for the offense’s flexibility.

“We went into the game expecting to use Marcus in a bunch of different situations,” Hammock said. “It’s something that we will continue to evolve and use. Obviously, the quarterback run game in college is a big part of the deal and finding the right balance of when to use him and when not to use him. The thing that is also important is he can throw the football so we’ve got some passes for him as well. There’s going to be a lot to defend here over the next six weeks.”

• This story was made available earlier this week to subscribers to the Yordon Report, the Daily Chronicle’s NIU sports newsletter. To subscribe, go to https://www.daily-chronicle.com/newsletter/niu-sports/#//

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