Sep 18, 2021; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA;  Northern Illinois Huskies head coach Thomas Hammock talks to the linesman during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Northern Illinois extends Thomas Hammock through 2026

Northern Illinois extended the contract of football coach Thomas Hammock through the 2026 season, the school announced Tuesday.

The three-year extension comes with Hammock leading the Huskies to a 6-3 record this fall entering Wednesday’s home game against Ball State.

“Under Coach Hammock, our program has made tremendous strides forward — competitively, academically and socially,” athletic director Sean Frazier said in a news release. “We are seeing the tangible results of that progress on the field this year, and over the past two years, we have seen it in the record-setting team GPA and the commitment to doing things the right way on and off the field.”

Hammock, 40, is 11-16 since taking over as coach prior to the 2019 season. Northern Illinois went 5-7 in his first season before going 0-6 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Hammock is a former star running back for Northern Illinois. He rushed for 2,432 yards and 25 touchdowns and had 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2000 and 2001.

“As an alum, I’m very proud to lead this program,” Hammock said in a statement. “I love the young men on our team, I love our staff and I love the direction we’re headed.”

Northern Illinois leads the Mid-American Conference West division with a 4-1 mark entering the Ball State matchup. The Huskies dropped their last game 52-47 to Kent State.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA;  Northern Illinois Huskies cornerback Jordan Gandy (14) breaks up a pass to Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Cornelius Johnson (6) in the first half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Corum fuels No. 25 Michigan in rout of No. Illinois

Blake Corum rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns as No. 25 Michigan found the end zone on its first nine possessions in a 63-10 romp over Northern Illinois on Saturday at Ann Arbor, Mich.

Donovan Edwards gained 86 yards and scored twice, while Hassan Haskins added 56 rushing yards and two scores. The Wolverines (3-0) had 373 rushing yards on 48 carries.

Cade McNamara threw an 87-yard touchdown pass to Cornelius Johnson and also scored on a quarterback keeper.

Northern Illinois quarterback and Michigan State transfer Rocky Lombardi was limited to 46 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception. He led the Spartans to a road victory over the Wolverines last season.

Michigan led 35-3 at halftime.

After Northern Illinois (1-2) failed to pick up a first down on its opening possession, the Wolverines drove 48 yards on seven plays. Corum’s 16-yard run set up McNamara’s 1-yard plunge for the score.

The Huskies drove 72 yards the next time it had the ball but settled for a 21-yard field goal by John Richardson.

Michigan then drove 75 yards in nine plays, capped by Corum’s 1-yard run.

Following another 3-and-out for the Huskies, Michigan scored once again on Haskins’ 1-yard run to make it 21-3.

Haskins scored from 5 yards out with 6:15 remaining in the half. That 10-play drive featured a 23-yard pass from McNamara to Erick All.

After a Northern Illinois punt, McNamara hooked up with Johnson on the 87-yard pass play. Johnson got behind his defender, caught the pass near the right sideline and raced into the end zone.

The Wolverines scored 28 third-quarter points.

Corum scored on a 51-yard run within the first two minutes of the second half. He also scored the Wolverines’ next touchdown on a 1-yard run.

Lombardi was picked off by Gemon Green to set up Michigan’s next touchdown, a 4-yard run by Edwards.

Edwards broke loose for a 58-yard touchdown run later in the quarter.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh during warm ups against the Washington Huskies at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Throwback style working as No. 25 Michigan awaits NIU

If it’s good enough for George Patton, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is here for it.

Michigan is playing an old-school brand of Big Ten football. The results are working just fine for Harbaugh, who reminded the masses he does not care about style points.

The Wolverines have relied on a run-based attack while defeating Western Michigan and Washington by a combined 54 points. They’ll look to go 3-0 in nonconference games when they play host to Northern Illinois on Saturday.

Michigan ran the ball 43 times for 335 yards and three scores in its 47-14 season-opening victory over the Broncos. The Wolverines expanded their ground-and-pound philosophy in a 31-10 win over the Huskies, rushing 56 times for 343 yards and four touchdowns.

Harbaugh isn’t offering any apologies. The Wolverines moved into the national rankings at No. 25.

“Heard a little bit of noise about it. ‘Why so much running? You’ve got to throw more.’ That kind of thing,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a lot of ways to travel. Some people choose to travel on the ground, some people by air.

“George Patton was able to get his job done on the ground. Neil Armstrong through the air,” he added. “Last Saturday night, we chose to grind it out on the ground and were also able to get our mission accomplished.”

Michigan has developed a nice 1-2 punch at running back, featuring the speed and shiftiness of 5-foot-8 Blake Corum and the power of 6-1 Hassan Haskins. Corum is averaging 8.1 yards on 35 carries with four touchdowns. He’s also scored a receiving touchdown. Haskins is averaging 5.6 yards on 40 carries with two scores.

Starting quarterback Cade McNamara has only attempted 26 passes.

“Throwing the ball might be more enjoyable to watch but playing in it as an offensive linemen, I love running the ball every play,” offensive tackle Andrew Stueber said. “Being able to come off the ball and reduce the defenders physically, it’s something I take a lot of pride in. I think everyone does as well.”

Northern Illinois (1-1) opened its season with a one-point win over Georgia Tech, then lost 50-43 to Wyoming on Saturday.

The Huskies were down 26 points in the third quarter, staged a furious rally to take the lead but allowed a touchdown with 1:35 remaining.

“I love the resiliency of our guys, they competed for four quarters,” head coach Thomas Hammock said. “They didn’t let the score affect them one way or the other, they just got ready for the next play.”

Quarterback Rocky Lombardi will try for an unprecedented double against the Wolverines. Last season, Lombardi led Michigan State to a 27-24 upset of its in-state rival at Michigan Stadium, throwing for 323 yards and three touchdowns.

Lombardi transferred to Northern Illinois and is now the Huskies’ starting quarterback. Just like Saturday’s game, his upset with Michigan State last season was at Michigan’s famed Big House.

Lombardi passed for 233 yards and a touchdown against Wyoming but was also intercepted three times.

“They really look like they got things going. They’re a team on the move, both offensively and defensively,” Harbaugh said. “Doing a great job executing, playing their systems.”

The teams have only met once, a Wolverines victory in 2005. Michigan is 34-1 all-time against Mid-American Conference opponents.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets linebacker Charlie Thomas (25) tackles Northern Illinois Huskies running back Harrison Waylee (30) in the second quarter at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jenn Finch-USA TODAY Sports

Rocky Lombardi leads Northern Illinois past Georgia Tech

Rocky Lombardi threw a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion with 38 seconds remaining to help visiting Northern Illinois stun Georgia Tech 22-21 on Saturday in Atlanta.

Lombardi threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to roommate Clint Ratkovich and the Huskies immediately went for two points and the win. Lombardi found Tyrice Richie along the back line of the end zone for the two-point conversion and the lead. The play was reviewed and the call stood.

Georgia Tech tried a 60-yard field goal from Gavin Stewart with one second left, but it was blocked.

Georgia Tech backup quarterback Jordan Yates scored on a 4-yard run with 6:32 remaining to give Georgia Tech a 21-14 lead. The go-ahead drive began when Wesley Walker caused Northern Illinois’
Harrison Waylee to fumble and Quez Jackson recovered for Georgia Tech at the 25. Three plays later Yates ran for the score.

The Yellow Jackets had tied the game on the previous possession when Dontae Smith scored on a 14-yard run on a fourth-and-1 with 7:44 remaining.

Georgia Tech lost starting quarterback Jeff Sims in the first half. He jammed his left shoulder into the turf while trying to recover a fumble, was taken to the locker room and returned to watch the second half in street clothes.

Northern Illinois scored late in the first quarter, driving 74 yards in eight plays, with the final 35 on a run by Waylee.

The Huskies upped the lead to 14-7 when Michigan State transfer Lombardi threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Miles Joiner to complete a 12-play, 66-yard drive.

Georgia Tech finally got on the board when Kyric McGowan caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Yates with 6:47 left in half.

Georgia Tech had won eight straight Saturday night games at Bobby Dodd Stadium, dating back a win over Clemson in 2011.

–Field Level Media

Sep 26, 2020; Syracuse, New York, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Jeff Sims (10) warms up prior to the game against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia Tech, Northern Illinois look for improvement in opener

Georgia Tech’s third season under coach Geoff Collins gets underway Saturday when the Yellow Jackets host Northern Illinois at Atlanta in the season opener for both teams.

Georgia Tech was 3-7 in 2020 as Collins steadfastly loaded up with prospects that fit his schemes, particularly his pro-style offense, as the Yellow Jackets continue to distance themselves from the spread option attack used successfully by former coach Paul Johnson.

Collins said the team has grown close during the offseason. “To see how guys have matured in the locker room, how they’re seeing the big picture and enjoy being around each other is so nice,” he said. “This a very focused group.”

The offense is led by quarterback Jeff Sims, who threw for 1,881 yards and 13 touchdowns and ran for 492 yards and six touchdowns as a true freshman in 2020. But Sims also threw 13 interceptions and struggled at times with ball security.

There is a good group of running backs, led by Jahmyr Gibbs, who ran for 460 yards and four touchdowns and caught 24 passes before injuring his knee. Jordan Mason, the team’s leading rusher in 2019, ran for 352 yards in 2020. The top returning receivers are Malachi Carter and Adonicas Sanders.

The defense is led by linebackers Quez Jackson and Maryland transfer Ayinde Eley, and an experienced secondary that includes cornerback Tre Swilling and safeties Juanyeh Thomas and Tariq Carpenter.

Northern Illinois was very young last season — the second-youngest in FBS with 71 percent of the roster made up of underclassmen — and finished 0-6 against a Mid-American Conference-only schedule. NIU returns nine starters on offense and 10 on defense.

The Huskies’ biggest question mark may be quarterback. Michigan State transfer Rocky Lombardi threw for 1,902 yards for the Spartans from 2018-20 and helped them beat Michigan and Northwestern last season. Freshman Ethan Hampton enrolled in January and won the backup role. None of the quarterbacks on the roster completed a pass for NIU in 2020.

“I like our quarterback room,” said NIU coach Thomas Hammock, who begins his third season as head coach. “Rocky has come in and been the type of player that we need him to be. He’s an extension of the coaching staff. He handles all the checks, he gets guys linked up and he’s the leader out there.”

NIU’s top returning backs are Harrison Waylee (456 yards rushing, one TD) and Erin Collins (192 yards rushing, four TDs). The three top receivers also return, including Tyrice Richie, who had 53 catches and four touchdowns in 2020.

The defense is led by cornerback Jordan Gandy, who led the team with 41 tackles and seven pass breakups, all-conference linebacker Kyle Pugh, hard-hitting safety Devin Lafayette and defensive lineman/linebacker Nick Rattin.

This will be the first ever meeting between the two teams.

–Field Level Media

Nov 7, 2020; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Rocky Lombardi (12) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-Spartans QB Lombardi transferring to Northern Illinois

Former Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi is transferring to Northern Illinois.

“There are so many people I would like to thank for their help and support throughout my recruiting process. But without further delay, I would like to announce my commitment to NIU!” Lombardi posted Sunday on Twitter.

Lombardi, who has two seasons of eligibility remaining, entered the NCAA transfer portal on Dec. 18.

He started the first six games for the Spartans this season, passing for 1,090 yards with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. He completed 47.9 percent of his passes for 1,902 yards with 11 scores and 14 picks during his three years in East Lansing.

–Field Level Media