MOUNT PLEASANT, Michigan – Four turnovers plagued Northern Illinois as it fell to Central Michigan on the road Saturday.
NIU’s quarterback Ross Bowers returned from injury and threw three interceptions in the third quarter, all on consecutive drives. The turnovers and poor execution on defense for the Huskies (3-6, 2-3 Mid-American Conference) led to a 48-10 loss to CMU at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
“I want to give credit to Central Michigan,” Huskies coach Thomas Hammock said. “They came out and gave us a thorough butt-kicking. We’ve got to respond; we’ve got to come back and figure out what was wrong. I take full responsibility as the head football coach. We weren’t prepared to play for some reason. I thought we had good preparation. At the end of the day we just didn’t get it done.”
The Chippewas (6-4, 4-2 MAC) opened the scoring with a 14-yard pass from quarterback Quinten Dormady to wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton. Pimpleton broke a tackle near the sideline and sprinted into the end zone.
CMU added another score with a 3-yard run from backup quarterback Tommy Lazzaro. Running back Kobe Lewis pushed the Chippewa lead to 21-3 with a 16-yard run.
Wide receiver Cole Tucker hauled in a pass from Bowers for 49 yards as the redshirt sophomore from DeKalb weaved through the Chippewa secondary down to the CMU 18-yard line. A personal foul moved the ball to the 9-yard line.
Bowers cashed in on the next play with a lofted pass to wide receiver Spencer Tears. The score brought the NIU deficit down to two scores early in the second quarter.
Bowers finished the day with 221 yards on 18-of-29 passing with the one touchdown and three interceptions.
On the other side, the passing game was dominant from the Chippewas.
Dormady added two touchdown passes – a 39-yarder to Tony Poljan and a 16-yarder to Tyrone Scott – to end the first half with Central Michigan ahead, 38-10.
“I saw a talented team on tape,” Hammock said. “If you look at those running backs, you look at [Pimpleton], I saw talent. I thought we would do a better job of containing them.”
The Huskies had only 123 yards of total offense in the first half and minus 23 yards in the running game alone. NIU was sacked twice in the first half for a total of 31 yards lost.
In the end, CMU outgained the Huskies, 615-251. NIU had negative rushing yards for most of the game and finished with 22 yards on the ground.
As the weather changed from sunshine to snow, NIU was able to move the ball marginally better on the ground but had its drives cut short by punts and miscues.
Bowers tossed his sixth interception of the season on the Huskies’ first drive of the second half into the hands of CMU linebacker Michael Oliver.
The next drive saw NIU on the move toward the end zone. Bowers launched the ball toward the end zone, but safety Gage Kreski hid himself in coverage and swept in to make the interception.
On NIU’s third drive of the second half, Bowers had a pass tipped into the air and intercepted by Montrae Braswell, giving the Huskies three straight drives ending with interceptions.
With its next drive, NIU committed its fourth turnover in as many drives as Jordan Nettles fumbled the ball deep in Chippewa territory.
“They dominated us,” Hammock said. “We’re not going to make any excuses. We’re going to look at the tape, try and get better and try to get ready for Toledo.”
However, only two turnovers yielded points, as Jonathan Ward punched in a 3-yard score following Bowers’ third interception, and Ryan Tice made a field goal following the Nettles fumble.