DeKALB – In a game that senior receiver Cole Tucker hit a career milestone and senior cornerback Jordan Gandy came up with an interception for the first time this season, both DeKalb grads, playing in their final game for NIU, said they would trade their individual achievements if it meant the Huskies had won.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards as the Huskies finished up a disappointing season after coming off a MAC Championship with a 44-12 loss to Akron, which had not beaten an FBS team this season.
Tucker, who missed the past two games with an injury, had four catches for 33 yards, putting him over 2,000 yards for his NIU career.
“It was cool. Obviously, I’m more concerned about the loss,” Tucker said. “But a milestone like that, that doesn’t happen every [day]. ... I wanted to win the game, and if I got zero catches and we won I would have preferred that.”
Tucker joined the team in 2017 from DeKalb High. He entered the game 3 yards shy of 2,000 and reached the milestone on his first catch, a 3-yard completion from freshman Nevan Cremascoli.
He became the eighth player in school history to pass 2,000 yards. He finished with 2,030 yards, 132 yards behind the school’s seventh all-time leading receiver, Kaneland grad and current Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck.
Gandy came up with his first interception since 2020, which was his first year with the team after transferring from South Dakota State. Akron quarterback Jeff Undercuffler had his pass tipped by Jashon Prophete, then Gandy came diving in to make the play.
“Really, I think Jashon Prophete should have probably had it,” Gandy said. “It bounced in the air, and I just saw the ball, put my hands out and caught it.”
NIU scored a field goal after the first-quarter interception by Gandy to go up 6-0, but Akron scored the next 27 points to put the game away.
“Kind of like Cole said I would have rather won the game,” Gandy said. “But it was nice, I guess. It was my first interception of the season, so it’s good to get one.”
The Huskies won a MAC title in 2021, but had a season plagued with injuries up and down the lineup – including to the top two quarterbacks, about every player in the secondary, two top receivers and almost every defensive lineman.
Gandy said he hopes the team remembers the lessons of that 2021 title run – the Huskies were winless the year before.
“I think something that the guys for next year got to understand is that we went through that 2020 season that was 0-6,” Gandy said. “Winning the championship the next year was one of my favorite sports experiences I’ve ever been a part of. I think they’ve got to learn from history. It can be done. Don’t be too negative.”
The losing season was the third in coach Thomas Hammock’s four seasons with the team. He said the team needs to work on its depth in the offseason, particularly in making sure backups are able to assume leadership roles when needed.
“We didn’t get that done this season,” Hammock said. “We lost some guys, and now you’ve got backups to the backups out there. Now there’s no direction, and it can’t just come from coaches all the time. We have to be able to build leadership. We have to bridge the gap, and obviously we couldn’t get that done this season.”