Football: New week, new struggle

Football: New week, new struggle

By Jack Weiland

The football team’s journey home from Natchitoches, La. Saturday was likely a long one, but not because the trip spanned more than 1,500 miles or even because the Huskies had just fallen to 1-7 with a 14-12 loss to Northwestern State.

Thinking about what could and probably should have been left the biggest wound of all.

NU, off to its worst start since 1999, when the team started 1-9 before winning its season finale, lost 162 offensive yards and one touchdown to penalties and saw its fourth-quarter comeback fall a two-point conversion shy of tying the game at Turpin Stadium.

“We made a lot of careless mistakes,” receiver Cory Parks said. “They called back four or five big plays where we would have been in the red zone and would have had definite scoring opportunities with [Miro Kesic’s] leg.”

That’s five big plays, to be exact.

Toward the end of the first quarter, a 46-yard pass from Anthony Orio (5-for-12, 61 yards) to Jeff Lang was brought back for an offensive pass interference penalty. NU, which would have had the ball on NW State’s 22-yard line, ended up punting.

Just before halftime, an illegal block in the back penalty negated a 48-yard run by senior Anthony Riley (11 carries, 99 yards). The Huskies settled for a field goal, Kesic’s second of the day, to make it 7-6 at halftime.

Early in the fourth quarter, after a one-yard touchdown run by Shelton Sampson put the hosts up by eight, a 27-yard pass from Orio to Parks that would have given NU a first-and-goal from inside the NW State 10 was called back on a holding penalty.

NU recovered seven plays later, when Orio found Parks in the end zone for a 15-yard strike. The touchdown was the sixth of the year for Parks (two catches, 40 yards). The Husky rally came up short, however, when Orio’s two point passing attempt was intercepted.

The Huskies never seriously threatened again.

“Enormously frustrating,” coach Rocky Hager said. “Some of the penalties were in the realm of being aggressive, and you don’t ever want to quell someone’s aggression to play. We need to be able to play consistently for the entire 60 minutes.

“We had very good flashes of defense against Northwestern State. We had very good flashes of offense against Northwestern State. Penalties hurt us on offense, missed opportunities allowed them to score two touchdowns on defense.”

Now the team has just three games to salvage what has been a dismal season. They host Maine Saturday at 12:30 p.m. before hosting Hofstra Nov. 12. The season will end in Rhode Island Nov. 19. Hager talks of the team playing for “Husky pride,” and Parks agrees.

“Just having a 1-7 record is frustrating,” Parks said. “You can be the Bad News Bears and have a 1-7 record or be a team with talent as we are and have a 1-7 record, and it’s frustrating. We have three games left this season and the seniors just want to go out on a winning note. We want to convey a winning tradition for the guys to continue next year.

“Now it’s like, ‘Let’s finish up strong, let’s fight and finish with some pride and show them what we’re really capable of.'”

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