The Black Team, coached by NIU offensive line coach Joe Tripodi, spotted the Cardinal a seven-point lead when running back Tommy Mister, who . . .
With each team granted nine possessions in the game, which did not feature any punting or special teams except for field goal and PAT attempts, the Black offense got going when quarterback Anthony Maddie hit Ezra Saffold across the middle and the speedster from Florida took it all the way to the end zone for a 58-yard touchdown.
Black also recorded touchdowns on two-yard runs by Dwayne Milton, who carried the ball nine times for 40 yards to lead all rushers in the game, and Maddie. Redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Santacaterina hit tight end Ryan Stendler for a nine-yard touchdown to round out the scoring.
NIU Head Coach Rod Carey indicated he was pleased with the Huskie Bowl and with what the Huskies accomplished during their 15 spring practices.
“Overall it was good,” Carey said. “I thought the guys got better. We improved, we worked on the fundamentals, went back to basics. I wanted to get better at the fundamentals and that has happened. I think we’re better right now with the fundamentals than we were a year ago at this time. We’re not a finished product. We’re not done yet. We’ve got a long ways to go, but I like the energy this team has right now.”
With new offensive and defensive coordinators in Mike Uremovich and Kevin Kane, respectively, and three other new assistant coaches on staff this spring, Carey said he saw the staff come together, and the players and coaches develop relationships.
“I think the staff gelled really well together, and the transition was good, team-wise and really good, player-coach wise,” he said. “The transition was really smooth with the coordinators, they know our systems and they’re comfortable in them. They brought wrinkles, and they'll continue to do that because they have to be themselves. Every offseason you’re tweaking and changing things to get better and improve, that is no different this year.”
With starting quarterback Drew Hare, running back Joel Bouagnon, and wide receiver Kenny Golladay sitting out the Huskie Bowl, and limited series for several other starters, including All-American cornerback Shawun Lurry, the Huskie Bowl provided an opportunity for young players, especially on defense, to step up.
Safety Taylor Mashack and cornerback Cassius Grady were two who did as they intercepted passes in the game, while Cardinal middle linebacker Kyle Pugh had two ooh and aah-inducing tackles for loss. Saffold led all receivers with five catches for 59 yards in the game, while Stendler’s day included three catches for 30 yards. Tight end Daniel Crawford led the Cardinal receivers with two catches for 26 yards.
Carey mentioned Christian Blake (three catches for 18 yards) and safety Mycial Allen first when asked about players who he saw step up this spring.
“Christian Blake had a really, really nice spring at wide receiver and I thought Mycial Allen had a good spring on defense as well,” Carey said. “There are probably a bunch more – Jamaal Payton, Sean Folliard.
On the defensive line, Herlandez Corley came along at the end, and William Lee’s second half of spring was really good. I was really happy with [center] Luke Shively inside. He’s got to keep coming, but I think Luke’s in front of that [battle at center] right now. I thought the quarterbacks did well. We played a lot of quarterbacks, and they all got better.”
In terms of numbers, Maddie’s led the way in the Huskie Bowl as he completed 15-of-15 passes for 186 yards and a score in the game, while his Black teammate Santacaterina was four-of-six for nine yards and a score. Ryan Graham led the Cardinal, completing eight-of-13 throws for 68 yards in the game.
The Huskies will next be on the field together as a team, along with the incoming freshman class, in August for preseason practices. NIU opens the 2016 campaign on Saturday, Sept. 3 at Wyoming.