DEKALB, Ill. –Jason Simpson, the seventh-year head football coach for The University of Tennessee at Martin saw plenty of rock’em, sock’em Saturday night in Huskie Stadium at Northern Illinois.
And what Simpson saw was a far cry from the minor pop culture toy of the 1970s where two plastic boxers were battling it out in a ring, jabbing at each other in an effort to knock the head off its opponent.
Simpson saw the Red Rocker, but he was not jabbing at all. The Northern Illinois linebackers and safeties, who wore red jerseys and bad-guy black pants, played the role of the Red Rocker. Complementing the Red Rocker was NIU junior quarterback Jordan Lynch who rushed for three touchdowns to lead the host Huskies to a 35-7 victory over the Skyhawks. Both UT Martin and Northern Illinois are 1-1 on the young season.
“Those linebackers and safeties for Northern Illinois were rock’em, sock’em,” Simpson said. “They got down the hill.”
The Skyhawks suffered from several injuries in the loss to the Football Bowl Subdivision team which won the Mid-American Conference and the GoDaddy.com Bowl a year ago.
“We got knocked around pretty good tonight,” Simpson said. “Our team doctor pulled three players from the game because of concussions.”
Northern Illinois’ defense held the Skyhawks to 63 yards of rushing and 346 total yards of offense.
“I was proud of my kids,” Simpson said. “We fought and we had some chances.”
The Skyhawks scored on 1-of-4 opportunities from the red zone.
“Give them credit,” Simpson said. “They tackled better than we did. I take my hat off to them, and wish them good luck the rest of the season.”
NIU built a 21-0 lead at halftime. Lynch rushed for a touchdown and passed for another in the first half.
“When you’re down 21-0 on the road it is not a lot of fun,” Simpson said.
Lynch scored two more rushing touchdowns in the second half.
“He’s tough and very physical,” Simpson said. “A tough player such as Lynch can be difficult to defend.”
Lynch rushed 11 times for 60 yards and passed for 214 more yards. He completed 19-of-25 passes and was intercepted once.
The Skyhawks had several chances to score but only found the end zone once, with 14:09 to play in the game, when quarterback Derek Carr completed a 7-yard pass to tight end Corey Jordan. The touchdown play capped off a 10-play, 75-yard drive.
Senior wide receiver Quentin Sims caught 10 passes for 152 yards, and Carr completed 19-of-35 passes for 264 yards and one touchdown.
“We could have made it a game, but we didn’t get it done,” Simpson said. “I wish we could have held in there and pushed the game a little but more.”
The Skyhawks return to action Thursday, Sept. 13 when they open the home portion of their schedule against Southeastern Louisiana at Hardy M. Graham Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
“We will get home at 6 a.m. and we will be back to work at 4:30 in the afternoon,” Simpson said. “We have got to practice.”
Photo by Mary Jean Hall, The Pacer