NIU Sports

Carifio: Three NIU players poised for big games against Vanderbilt

DeKALB – After falling last week to Tulsa, 38-35, Northern Illinois is back home against Vanderbilt on Saturday.

If the Huskies would like to avoid a 1-2 start to the season they’ll need to knock off an SEC team in Huskie Stadium. And to do that, these three Huskies are very likely to have big games.

Antario Brown, sophomore running back

The Huskies are not putting up the eye-popping numbers they did a year ago on the ground, and a big chunk of that is offensive line play. But as explosive as the backfield is, it’s not likely to stay down forever.

Antario Brown isn’t likely to continue averaging 4.3 yards per carry, as he has 143 total yards and two scores this season. It’s the second time we’ve picked him in three games already this year, and while he’s had two decent performances so far, Saturday may end up being huge for him.

Maybe this is just a way of saying the line is more the one to watch Saturday, which probably is true. But singling out a lineman can be futile with no way of proving success behind hours of film breakdown, so let’s just roll with Brown here.

Northern Illinois University defensive ends Izayah Green-May (left) and Michael Kennedy take part in a drill Monday, August 1, 2022, during practice at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

Izayah Green-May, senior defensive end

His second game with the Huskies certainly was productive, with four tackles, two for a loss, and a sack.

But everyone on the line has been sniffing around for even bigger performances – the team has five sacks this season, and that number could be even higher given the amount of quarterback hurries. And even though Vanderbilt runs more than throws so far this season – and only has allowed one sack – NIU can change that trend.

And if the Huskies do, Green-May could be the main reason why.

Northern Illinois University cornerback Javaughn Byrd covers tight end Tristen Tewes during spring practice in the Chessick Practice Center Wednesday, April 6, 2022, at NIU in DeKalb.

Tristan Tewes, sophomore tight end

Going out on a limb with this one. But the tight ends have factored in big time so far this season. Miles Joiner was hurt last week. Hammock generally doesn’t discuss injuries but mentioned Joiner getting hurt in his postgame presser last week, and he’s not on the depth chart this week. Tewes, on the other hand, is expected to play for the first time this year. Liam Soraghan has gotten a lot of reps at tight end so far, but Hammock really has been using multiple tight-end looks.

Even in the closing minutes, when NIU decided to go for it on fourth down to seal the win against Tulsa instead of punting it away to the potent Golden Hurricane offense, George Gumbs was the target. He’s a hybrid WR/TE, but in that presser Hammock did imply he was more of a tight end in that situation.

We know the Huskies like going to tight ends in key moments. We know they’re getting work in general, and Tewes is poised for some playing time and has the ability to make a difference.

Last week

We went with: Rocky Lombardi, Cole Tucker and Jordan Gandy.

What they did: Lombardi was 18 of 31 for 259 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Tucker was his main recipient, hauling in seven passes for 123 yards and a score. Gandy was second on the team with seven tackles, had a pass breakup and recovered a fumble.