DeKALB – Alex Schwab knew exactly what to do when he saw the football lying on the ground Saturday afternoon against Kent State.
After Raymond James fumbled a punt in the third quarter with the Huskies ahead, 14-3, Schwab pounced on the ball, securing possession and a new drive for the Huskies at Kent State’s 9, which eventually led to another NIU touchdown that put the game out of reach.
Schwab also knew what to do on Justin Rankin’s first carry in his area. Schwab evaded his blocker and brought Rankin down behind the line of scrimmage for his first of seven tackles.
Filling in for injured linebacker Kyle Pugh, it was Schwab’s first time getting extended playing time in his career. It also was the redshirt senior’s first time playing the middle linebacker position.
A handful of firsts for Schwab, but he made it look like he’d been there before.
“Alex played a good game,” coach Rod Carey said. “His communication was really good and how he talked to the front and the guys; I was really pleased with that.”
Schwab had several highlight plays, but he also had his few share of hiccups, too. Even he admitted he felt a bit nervous.
“There are certainly some things that he needs to get better at,” Carey said. “There are some things we’d like to see him clean up with angles, block destruction, things like that.
Carey also pointed out Schwab’s uptick in playing time isn’t guaranteed. Linebacker Antonio Jones-Davis sat out against Kent State, serving a one-game suspension for gouging the eyes of San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny. Jones-Davis will be back in action at Bufflalo and likely will split time with Schwab.
Whoever plays more snaps depends on how practice goes this week, Carey said.
Carey has been adamant throughout the season saying how a player practices will determine how much they play on game day. NIU’s defense leads the NCAA in total yards allowed with only 3.54 a play.
Jones-Davis appeared to play more reps during Wednesday’s practice, but Carey said it was more so because Jones-Davis sat out a week.
“They’re rolling over there, Antonio and Alex for sure,” Carey said. “It’s all about building our depth.”
Schwab said he hopes neither the added competition in practice or knowing the Huskies’ have the nation’s best defense affects his mentality in practice.
“We try not to look as much into that as we can,” Schwab said. “Obviously we’ll see it all over social media and stuff, but we try to stay humble and come out with the same attitude every week.”
He added, “With a little more experience I think I will be better this upcoming week, and weeks to follow.”