May 24, 2024
Sports - DeKalb County


Graham out for rest of year

DeKALB – Entering its last game of the regular season, Northern Illinois will be without quarterback Ryan Graham (elbow) for the remainder of the year, NIU coach Rod Carey said Tuesday.

“He’s shelved for the rest of the year,” Carey said.

Graham, a redshirt junior, was NIU’s Week 1 starter, but suffered an elbow injury during the season opener against Boston College on Sept. 1 and never fully recovered. He was expected to miss only a month, but sat out for two-plus months before returning Nov. 9 during NIU’s blowout win over Ball State. He did not attempt a pass in that game.

The Wheaton native concludes the season appearing in only two games while totaling 190 passing yards. Graham completed 15 of 38 passes with two touchdowns and one interception and rushed for 122 yards on 14 carries.

During a press conference held Oct. 24, Carey said NIU would explore all options for Graham, including attempting to obtain a medical redshirt.

“You really have to have two non-football injuries that keep you out of two seasons to get that sixth year,” Carey said at the time. “We are going to look at everything, believe me, if he doesn’t play for the rest of the year, we’re going to look at every avenue for him.”

Graham eventually played again and handled a few snaps against Ball State on Nov. 9, but hasn’t played since.

According to NCAA rules and regulations, to receive a medical redshirt, the student-athlete must: “Suffer the injury during one of their four seasons of college competition or during the senior year of high school. The injury must be incapacitating. That means it must be a season-ending injury. The injury must occur prior to the start of the second half of the season. The student-athlete must not have competed in more than 30 percent of the season or three contests, whichever is greater.

Redshirt freshman Marcus Childers has handled most of the workload at quarterback in Graham’s absence. Childers has started six straight games dating back to Oct. 14. In 10 games this season, Childers has completed 117 of 203 passes for 1,312 yards with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s also been a solid running option for the Huskies, rushing for 441 yards and five touchdowns on 120 carries.

Huff comes through big: Before NIU took the field for their 35-31 win over Western Michigan, senior tailback Jordan Huff called his shot.

He told his teammates he was going to score on his very first carry. Huff came through with his promise, rushing
31 yards to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead. The Mobile, Alabama native finished with a career-high 185 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries against the Broncos.

“I just wanted to show I was the best running back in the MAC, regardless of the stats,” Huff said.

Huff has been hampered by a left foot injury and missed three games during the middle of the season, including NIU’s only conference loss against Toledo.

“The product you see when he’s in game is the product of when he’s practicing,” Carey said. “He is a gifted young man who when he puts that practice time in you get the results on the field.

“That’s the biggest thing I love about this team,” he said. “That’s the standard, the standard isn’t just wait to wait and show up. The standard is we’re going to practice and attack this thing. For the most part we’ve met that standard daily.”

Carey says Smith deserves postseason recognition: Sutton Smith was named the Mid-American Conference player of the week for the third time this season, after finishing with 2½ sacks, 5½ tackles for loss against Western Michigan.

Entering the final game of the regular season, Smith owns the NIU single season record for tackles for loss (27½) and sacks (13). He ranks first and third in the FBS in tackles for loss and sacks, respectively.

Smith is one of 18 semifinalists for the Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defender and could have more accolades coming his way. Carey, however, thinks Smith is worthy of MAC Player of the Year.

“To date, Sutton has broken all of Larry English’s records at this school, Larry was Conference Player of Year on a team that was 2-10 overall. We’re a better team than that team Larry played on, and Sutton has broken his records. That’s what I can say about him, he deserves to be in that conversation.”

NIU cornerback Mykelti Williams said playing with Smith makes his job easier.

“He gets up to the quarterback almost every play,” Williams said. “It’s fun to be out there with him. He’s a compliment to my game. … I help him out on the back end, he helps out on the front. It’s exciting to watch him play.”