DeKALB – Alex Kube’s analysis of his team’s tackling took just one word: Bad.
No excuses, no letdowns, just poor tackling that helped lead the Northern Illinois football team to a 34-31 loss to Idaho on Saturday.
“As coach always says, ‘That’s how you know you are ready to play’ and we weren’t ready to play in the first quarter,” the NIU junior linebacker said.
A week after holding Purdue running back Ralph Bolden to 64 yards and the Boilermakers to 335 yards of offense, things changed.
Idaho made plays when they needed them, converting 8-of-13 third downs. And Vandals running back De’Maundray Woolridge bulled his way for 143 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown.
“The big thing is that they blocked better,” NIU coach Jerry Kill said. “Football games come down to blocking and tackling. We didn’t tackle very well and we didn’t get some stops at times. And that’s why they won the game.
“It wasn’t anything spectacular they did, I just think they executed better than Purdue executed against us.”
That execution also came from Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle, who was 18-of-23 for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
One of the most important of those passes came on 3rd-and-3 on the final drive of the game when he found Eric Greenwood for a 25-yard gain. From there, Woolridge ran for two more first downs before Enderle was able to kneel away the victory.
“We just couldn’t find the way to make a play,” Kill said. “I look at our four ballgames this year and it’s really come down to third downs.
“They took us out of rhythm because of the things they were doing offensively. They controlled the football.”
Enderle threw all three of his touchdown passes in the second quarter, his accuracy heating up after Idaho came away empty-handed on its first drive of the game after a missed 53-yard field goal.
Starting on the second play of the Vandals second drive, Enderle completed 9 of 10 passes with his three touchdown throws to put the Vandals up 21-13 at the half.
“That’s part of football,” Kube said of Enderle’s hot streak. “Personally, you put a smile on your face, accept the challenge and just try to keep playing. Sometimes you don’t make the play, you just have to go to the next one.”
In all, the Vandals gained 477 yards of offense, held the ball for more than 34 minutes and ran 67 plays to NIU’s 54.
The Huskies forced them to punt just once, late in the game when NIU’s Jordan Delegal came up with a blocked punt.
“Offensively, we did a great job,” Delegal said. “Defensively, we could have done better.”