NIU spring showcase: The 5 best plays from the Huskies’ final spring practice

Defense has big day with touchdowns, big hits

Northern Illinois University's Abiathar Curry, left, lifts up teammate Andrew McElroy after Andrew scored a touchdown during a scrimmage on Saturday April 27, 2024, held at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University’s spring practice wrapped up Saturday with its annual Spring Showcase, with the Huskies playing in front of fans for the first time since the end of the 2023 season.

While not a spring game, most of the practice was spent in 11-on-11 situations. Here are the top five plays from the scrimmage.

5. The defense almost gets two interceptions on the same play

With Ethan Hampton in at quarterback, Nate Valcarcel nearly got his hands on a pass at the line of scrimmage, but it snuck past him. It arrived to target Brock Lampe, but Jashon Prophete nearly came up with the pick, breaking up the pass.

The play came as part of a very long, very methodical drive that ended at the 3-yard line when Lampe dropped a fourth-down pass. It was an interesting drive with the starters for both the offense and defense playing, with the exception of starting running back Antario Brown, who was rested for the drive.

Even though it covered a lot of ground, it stalled out inside the 5.

4. Santana Banner delivers a crushing hit

With Josh Holst in at quarterback, he handed off to Justin Lynch – who featured heavily in the action Saturday with normal backup running back Gavin Williams on the sidelines in warmups.

As Lynch closed in on the first down marker, Banner delivered as punishing of a hit you’ll see in practice, stopping Lynch in his tracks and bringing up a third and short.

The offense would convert the third down, however, get one of its best offensive plays of the day – see below – then score its only full-field touchdown of the day later on the drive.

3. Muhammed Jammeh nets a scoop and score

The first defensive touchdown of the day came in Holst’s first series after the touchdown. On the second play, the NIU ball carrier fumbled, Jammeh picked it up and scored easily.

It was the third straight three-and-out recorded by the NIU defense after allowing the touchdown, shutting down the quarterback once with each quarterback – Hampton, Holst and Jalen Macon – under center.

2. Jashon Prophete has a no-doubter pick-six in the red zone

Late in the scrimmage the team started maroon zone drills, with the offense starting at the defense’s 25 yard line. On Hampton’s last pass of the day, Prophete jumped in front of it and went about 90 yards to the house.

No player was even close to catching him. Cam Thompson, who appeared to be the intended receiver, pursued the whole way but couldn’t catch up to Prophete and his caravan.

1. Andrew McElroy makes an amazing diving catch a play before grabbing a touchdown

After Banner leveled Holst – see above – the drive did continue, although after Javaughn Byrd batted down a pass from Holst at the line, the offense faced a third and 9.

Holst tried to find McElroy, a Bolingbrook graduate and transfer from St. Thomas, but the throw sailed low and much further toward the sideline than where McElroy was.

It didn’t matter. McElroy broke toward it, dove and extended fully to catch the ball while staying inbounds, getting the first down.

On the next play, the offense had its first touchdown when Holst, a Marengo graduate, found McElroy in the back of the end zone. It might have been close to being out of bounds, but it was ruled a touchdown.

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