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Sieh Bangura (no.22) runs the ball past Penn State defense on September 10th, 2022 in State College, PA.

Football: Everything to know about Northern Illinois

Ohio takes on Northern Illinois this weekend in its final Saturday game of the season, looking for its third-straight win.

The Bobcats have not won three straight Mid-American Conference games since 2018, and picking up a third consecutive win would put them just one win away from bowl eligibility.

Here is everything you need to know about Northern Illinois before Saturday’s game:

Head Coach:

Thomas Hammock is in his fourth season as Northern Illinois' head coach after taking the job in January 2019. He both played and served as an assistant coach at Northern Illinois, and returned to the school as head coach after five seasons with the Baltimore Ravens as an assistant coach.

Hammock led the Huskies to a MAC title in 2021, but they went 7-2 in one-score games last season, including three wins by a point. This has proved to be unsustainable, as the Huskies are just 2-5 this season and 1-3 in one score games.

Northern Illinois has lost five of its last six games, but is coming off a 39-10 win over Eastern Michigan. Northern Illinois is currently in a four-way tie for third in the MAC West.


Rocky Lombardi returned to the lineup against Eastern Michigan and went 11-15 for 115 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. It was his first appearance since Week 3 against Vanderbilt.

For the season, Lombardi has completed 66.7% of his passes for 645 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Last season, his first at Northern Illinois after transferring from Michigan State, he threw for 2597 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions.


Cole Tucker is the most common target for Northern Illinois, with 34 catches on the season for 536 yards and three touchdowns.

After Tucker, the Huskies have really spread the wealth this season in the passing game, with five receivers who have at least 100 yards receiving and six receivers with at least one touchdown.


Northern Illinois has one of the best rushing attacks in the MAC, averaging the most yards per carry in the conference on the fourth most attempts this season. Harrison Waylee is Northern Illinois’ primary running back, with 113 carries for 630 yards and five touchdowns on the season.

Antario Brown is the secondary running back, with 83 carries for 415 yards and six touchdowns. Quarterback Rocky Lombardi was also a threat in the run game last season with 473 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground, but has not done much with his legs in limited action this season.


Much like the offense, Northern Illinois’ defense is good in the run game and struggles in the passing game.

The Huskies have allowed the second-fewest rushing yards in the MAC this season, but the third-most passing yards. That is a cause for optimism for the Bobcats, who still possess the best passing attack in the conference.

Northern Illinois does make some big plays on defense, ranking third in the MAC in sacks and tied for second in interceptions.

Notes on Ohio:

Ohio won two more weekly awards in Week 7, with Sieh Bangura being named MAC East Offensive Player of the Week and Nathanial Vakos being named MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week. It is the second weekly award for each player, and Ohio now has seven MAC weekly award winners this season.

Kurtis Rourke will need to rebound from a tough game against Western Michigan, in which he threw his first interception since Week 3.

Ohio’s defense, which has been its biggest issue this season, is coming off its best game of the year, holding Western Michigan to just 14 points and forcing six turnovers.


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