Tuesday notes: Carey confident in possible Lewis redshirt

Posted on September 23, 2014 - 20:01:24

Northern Illinois senior wide receiver Tommylee Lewis will miss the remainder of the season due to an undisclosed lower body injury, NIU head coach Rod Carey announced on Tuesday.

Lewis played the first two games of the season but sat out against UNLV and Arkansas. Lewis caught four passes for 11 yards, and ran the ball six times for 17 yards.

NIU can apply for a medical hardship waiver through the MAC at the end of the season for Lewis, who has not used a redshirt. Carey is confident that Lewis will be able to get a redshirt, and said he doesn't know of any MAC player in a situation similar to Lewis that has been turned down.

"[The injury] wasn't an all of the sudden thing. It was a culmination of things that got built up that all of the sudden it got to a point at Northwestern where it got so bad he couldn't do it after that game anymore. We were hoping [his health] would come around again, but it certainly did not," Carey said after Tuesday's practice at Huskie Stadium. "When it's not going to come around you've got a reshirt year, you're within the rules, you petition the conference for the redshirt year, that he can use it. We'll get it because everybody gets it. You just get it right and get him ready for his senior year, which will be next year."

• Keith Harris Jr. did not play against Arkansas. Carey said he is dealing with a hamstring injury, and sounded optimistic he'll be ready to go against Kent State on Saturday, Oct. 4.

• Sophomore Josh Orne has been handling kickoffs the past two weeks, taking duties away from Tyler Wedel, who is the team's punter and field goal kicker. Wedel struggled early on but has not missed a field goal the last two games.

Carey said the trade-off has been good.

"Orne, what he brings to us is a good leg. He's probably not as strong as Wedel but what that allows Wedel to do is he can just hit wedges all day instead of hitting drivers. So, it's a good thing for him to hit wedges."

How Orne got here is a cool story, which I'll be writing about for Thursday's Daily Chronicle.

– Steve Nitz, snitz@shawmedia.com, @SNitz_DDC

Tommylee Lewis done for the year

Posted on September 23, 2014 - 16:26:41

Northern Illinois senior wide receiver Tommylee Lewis will miss the remainder of the season due to a lower body injury, NIU head coach Rod Carey announced in a news release on Tuesday.

Lewis played the first two games of the season but sat out against UNLV and Arkansas. Lewis caught four passes for 11 yards, and ran the ball six times for 17 yards.

NIU can apply for a medical hardship waiver through the MAC at the end of the season. Lewis has not used a redshirt year.

– Steve Nitz, snitz@shawmedia.com, @SNitz_DDC

LIVE BLOG: NIU at Arkansas

Posted on September 20, 2014 - 17:29:58

Final thoughts: NIU 52, Arkansas 14

I thought the Huskies would put more points on the board and keep things closer. However, NIU just couldn't move the ball consistently all night.

The bottom line is Arkansas is just a much better, bigger and talented team. NIU wasn't "exposed" or anything like that tonight.

NIU is still a favorite to win the MAC West, and this could very well be the Huskies' only loss of the season.

You can't afford to spot a team like Arkansas 14 points on the road, and that was one thing that ultimately doomed NIU on Saturday.

Halftime: Arkansas 28, NIU 7

Things went better for the Huskies in the second, at least until Brandon Allen's 10-yard TD pass to Jared Cornelius.

The Huskies were able to put together a nice drive which resulted in an 11-yard TD pass from Drew Hare to Aregeros Turner to get on the board.

Still, the disaster that was the first seven minutes of this game is haunting NIU right now.

End of the first quarter: Arkansas 21, NIU 0

Everyone thought Arkansas would be able to put up a fair share of points against NIU – just not the way the Razorbacks have been doing it.

Arkansas' Korliss Marshall took the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and the Razorbacks got their second score after recovering a Drew Hare fumble and taking it to the end zone.

The Razorbacks' showed off their rushing moxie at the end of the quarter with a 15-yard TD run by Jonathan Williams.

NIU's offense has had a few big plays, mainly a long screen pass catch by Joel Bouagnon, and the Huskies have the ball to start the second quarter.

15 minutes until kickoff

Good news on the injury front, both Jamaal Bass and Akeem Daniels are dressed, so it looks like they will go. Bass' news is big considering Arkansas' potent offense. Cameron Stingily should get the majority of the touches at tailback, and you should see a fair amount of Daniels (if he is going to give it a go), and to a lesser extent Joel Bouagnon.

Tommylee Lewis made the trip, but is not dressed.

Half hour until kickoff

I'm sitting up here in the open press box at Razorback Stadium with a great view of the field, and great weather. Sorry, not trying to rub it in to the folks still up north but the weather couldn't be better.

I'm very intrigued by this game, as its the best nonconference opponent NIU has faced in quite awhile. It will be a huge test for the Huskies, but at the same time Arkansas should be on upset alert.

While you're getting ready for the matchup, check out our preview coverage for today's game.

Preview story: NIU amped to tangle with Arkansas

Five storylines: NIU-Arkansas

Take 2: NIU faces biggest challenge in years

– Steve Nitz, snitz@shawmedia.com, @SNitz_DDC

Q&A with Arkansas beat writer Thomas Murphy

Posted on September 17, 2014 - 21:40:49

Thomas Murphy covers Arkansas for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and took some time out of his day to answer some questions about the Razorbacks. You can follow him on Twitter at @TomMurphyADG

Steve Nitz: Bret Bielema is in his second season as Razorbacks coach after making the move down south from Wisconsin. I know it's early, but do you get the sense that after a down year in 2013, the program is turning the corner after the John L. Smith fiasco of 2012?

Murphy: Funny you should ask that, as it was the theme for a story I wrote on Wednesday. The Razorbacks are definitely improved, and it looks like substantially so at defensive back, linebacker and quarterback, which were all problem areas in 2013. The Hogs have something to hang their hats on – a bruising offensive line and a bevy of talented runners – but there are still issues with timing in the passing game, and their tackling against Auburn in the opener was atrocious. The definition of "turning the corner" probably means ready to compete in their own division and the jury is still out on that. They lost by 24 points to the defending SEC champion and the Razorbacks have four more games against SEC West teams in the Top 10 and two games vs. SEC East teams in the Top 20. They might be much-improved but still not have a lot of wins to show for it at season's end. However, if they are successful in turnover margin and possess the ball and score, they could give even higher-rated teams trouble.

Nitz: Despite what Bielema does this season, how many Arkansas fans would still prefer Bobby Petrino leading the program?

Murphy: Good question and I can't give you a percentage, but there are definitely some. However, the more that comes out on the way Petrino treated employees, such as some of what appeared in the Sports Illustrated article on him, the more Petrino die-hards pull away from him. No one can argue the guy can't coach – 21-5 in 2010 and '11 speaks to that – and the cold-blooded style in which he attacked teams and schemed up home-run plays was appealing to many fans. However, seeing a roster with massive holes in it because he was not an ace recruiter and knowing now how he treated some people in the department, fewer fans would rage to have him return some day as he did to Louisville.

Nitz: Speaking of Petrino, could you describe the experience of covering that circus two years ago?

Murphy: I've covered several NCAA investigations, the Mike DuBose meltdown at Alabama in 2000 and the Mike Price fiasco there in 2003, and the Petrino affair might've topped them all for wildness. He wanted to do his Tuesday press conference in the neck brace and puffy face two days after the Harley wreck to show he was a tough guy, but I suppose he didn't realize he could get hung up a little on relating the story while trying to talk around Jessica Dorrell's presence on the bike. If he hadn't paid her $20k he might have survived the incident. There were some crazy moments during it all, like nearly being run over by his son Nick Petrino when the decision to fire him came down.

Nitz: Razorback tailbacks Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams have been running around everyone so far this year. What are each back's main strengths?

Murphy: Both are physical guys who have run through numerous arm tackles already this season, racking up 257 yards after contact among their 357 combined rushing yards at Texas Tech last week. Williams' work ethic, balance and power, and his passion for squeezing every available yard out of his touches are his calling cards. Collins added about 15 pounds in the offseason to better withstand the rigors of careening between the tackles and it's showed in more rugged runs. His vision and cutting instincts at speed are top-notch traits. Neither is super flashy in terms of speed, but each has a touchdown of 84-plus yards this year. Collins had trouble shedding the final defender last year, but he has proved better at that through three games as a sophomore.

Nitz: What's the main strength of the Arkansas defense? Any certain player NIU fans should watch for?

Murphy: Many analysts would say the secondary and linebackers are still a bit shaky, despite consecutive decent showings, one against Texas Tech's formidable spread passing attack. So the unit's top strength is its play up front. Defensive end Trey Flowers is one of the SEC's best, and young tackles Taiwan Johnson and Darius Philon have flashed at times. The Razorbacks have yet to play a quality pro-style passing attack this year to judge whether their pass rush is formidable, which makes this game intriguing. Auburn and Texas Tech got the ball out quickly and Arkansas had just one sack in the two games, and their six sacks against hapless Nicholls State are inconclusive. Eyes out for the end No. 86 Flowers, hard-hitting linebacker No. 47 Martrell Spaight and cornerback No. 23 Tevin Mitchel, who will be in his second game back from a hamstring injury after struggling in coverage and tackling in 2013.

– Steve Nitz, snitz@shawmedia.com, @SNitz_DDC

NIU Notes: Carey hopes to have Bass back Saturday

Posted on September 16, 2014 - 14:35:22

DeKALB – Northern Illinois will have its hands full with Arkansas' rushing attack this week.

Something that would help would be the return of linebacker Jamaal Bass, who has been recovering from a leg injury.

At his weekly press conference Tuesday, Carey said Bass "has a real good chance of being ready to go" at Arkansas.

Having the 2013 All-MAC linebacker return will be extremely important against a team which is averaging 362 yards per game on the ground.

"We'll know a lot more today (after practice)," Carey said. "Just knowing how he's been progressing I think he has a real good shot to play this week."

Other notes from Tuesday:

• Carey isn't sure about wideout Tommylee Lewis, who didn't play at UNLV. Lewis spent the summer recovering from a foot injury, and Carey said it's a different injury but related.

• Akeem Daniels only got one carry at UNLV, Carey said he's dealing with "bumps and bruises." Carey said that he'll be given every opportunity to play against Arkansas.

• Carey said he wasn't sure if Anthony Maddie will see any time. He's played two series' each of the past two weeks.

– Steve Nitz, snitz@shawmedia.com, @SNitz_DDC

Now that NIU's true road winning streak is over, which road win was your favorite?
2013 at Toledo
2013 at Iowa
2013 at Purdue
2014 at Northwestern