DeKALB – Activities started outside for the NIU football team in its 12th practice of the spring, with warm weather eventually giving way to rain and lightning.
The final 45 minutes were inside the Chessick Center on Saturday after the nice start at Huskie Stadium.
But inside or out, there were good plays on both sides of the ball as the Huskies wrapped up their fourth week of practices. The final week starts Wednesday and wraps with the spring showcase at noon Saturday.
Here are five standout plays from the scrimmage Saturday:
Early on with Nevan Cremascoli at quarterback, the Huskies lined up with three receivers to the left side. But Cremascoli went with the shovel pass to fullback Brock Lampe, who turned it into a big gain for the offense.
It wasn’t Lampe’s only touch of the day. All spring, in fact, coach Thomas Hammock and the Huskies seem dedicated to making sure they get production out of the fullback spot, something that’s not too common these days but certainly helped the Huskies in their Mid-American Conference title season two years ago, with Clint Ratkovich handling short-yardage situations as a fullback/running back hybrid.
Lampe is much more of a traditional fullback than Ratkovich, but he may end up helping in ways other than blocking by the time the season starts.
Barnes with the touchdown
Most of the day was spent in a full-team scrimmage. With referees on hand, even the 7-on-7-plays were officiated.
The first touchdown for the offense came when Cremascoli hit Grayson Barnes, a junior tight end transfer from American River Community College. Barnes took it and ran into the end zone for a big gain.
Barnes had another big play later, turning a screen from Cremascoli into about a 20-yard gain. He seemed to be a favorite target of Cremascoli, who was the second quarterback used Saturday after Ethan Hampton.
Rocky Lombardi took one 7-on-7 snap, having to throw a pass away after the defense had all of his targets locked down. The senior has been slowly working his way back from a season-ending injury last year but is not participating in any contact drills.
Urwiler shows off athleticism
In QB Justin Lynch’s first series, the junior rolled out and tried to get off a pass. Linebacker Quinn Urwiler had other ideas.
Urwiler leaped and batted down the pass with both hands. He really elevated on the play for an early defensive spark for the Huskies.
While on the subject of Lynch, it’s going to be interesting to see his usage this year. In theory, he transferred in from Temple to take a redshirt last year and compete for the starting job this year after Lombardi graduated.
Of course in reality, Lombardi and backup Ethan Hampton were both hurt, and Lynch was pressed into duty. He’s been the third quarterback throughout the spring, so he may be able to get that redshirt this year and have two years to compete for the starting job starting next year.
And if we learned anything from last year, things always go according to plan.
Brown still good
Antario Brown always has been the type to grind out 3-, 4-, 5-yard runs before breaking off the biggie. That was the case Saturday in the scrimmage, as well.
As sure as autocorrect still tries to change his first name to Antonio, Brown still is in top form for the Huskies.
The junior running back had a big run of about 35 yards down to the 2-yard line late in the practice after it moved inside. On the next play, he went untouched into the end zone for the score.
Porter with a late INT
The defense had an unusually quiet day, not forcing as many turnovers as the usually do. But redshirt freshman safety Trey Porter wouldn’t be denied late, even by a whistle.
Lynch was leading the offense on a late drive, and Porter intercepted the ball and started trying to run it back. Although whistles started blowing to call the play dead, Porter kept weaving through the offense more than 80 yards to escalating cheers from the defensive side of the field.