DeKALB – The drought was sure to end eventually. Northern Illinois’ offense was just too experienced, too talented and too determined to be kept out of the end zone this spring.
The Huskies finally scored their first live-contact touchdown in spring practice when senior running back Jasmin Hopkins scampered down the right sideline for almost 50 yards, breaking several tackles along the way. NIU’s defensive coaches ran onto the field, yelling at the players who’d missed tackles. Offensive coaches gave one of their loudest cheers of the day.
“It was real good to see them get into the end zone,” NIU coach Dave Doeren said. “Saturday we’ll really see because we’ll crank it up and let it go for a while. But the defense is bending and finishing drives. The offense is moving it and not finishing. It will come together for both of them.
“That’s what it’s all about though, is the competition. You want to see it.”
Hopkins’ run came with the second-team offense on the field going against the Huskies’ second-team defense. The first-team offense still hasn’t crossed the goal line.
That didn’t detract from the moment.
“That was just a great run by Jas,” NIU junior safety Tommy Davis said. “I really don’t want to take anything away from him, because we had guys – it was poor tackling by us – but we had guys that were there. He was just determined to get into the end zone, and he did it.
“You want to see plays like that. You love seeing plays like that. You don’t necessarily like to see it going against your defense. ... But it’s just a comfort knowing that your offense can go down and score.”
Doeren compliments: At times, it’s been difficult for Doeren to think of multiple players to compliment after practice. That wasn’t the case Thursday.
In what was the Huskie offense’s best practice this spring, Doeren said he was specifically pleased with the way quarterback Chandler Harnish played. He also said running back Jamal Womble continued to impress him, wide receiver Martel Moore made some nice catches, and tight end Jason Schepler blocked well.
Coaching vicariously: With his playing career only over since 2002, NIU cornerbacks coach Richard McNutt looks more like a player than coach.
McNutt, a young, energetic coach on a staff full of them, still has the fitness and youth to put the pads on. A couple times this spring, McNutt said, he hasn’t been able to stay on the sidelines.
“I’ve run out there a couple times, got told to get off the field a couple times,” McNutt said. “I’m excited about football, I’m passionate about it, I love being out there with them. I play the game through them and have fun with them just like they do.
“So I’m going to be running around energetic as always. I’m not going to ever stop doing that."