OXFORD, Ohio – True freshman wide receiver Michael Love had seen his influence on the Huskie offense rise and that was obvious in NIU’s 27-24 loss Saturday at Miami.
A Nazareth Academy alumnus from LaGrange Park, Love hauled in a 16-yard reception from Ross Bowers in the second quarter on second-and-18 that set up workhorse running back Tre Harbison to pick up a first down. The Huskies went on to score when quarterback Marcus Childers, who replaced the injured Ross Bowers, sneaked in to score from a yard out.
Love later made a contested catch deep over the top of the RedHawks defense and battled his way for extra yards as two Miami defenders tried to rip the ball away.
“If everyone does their job, linemen does their job and [the] quarterback put it right on the money, I just have to do my job,” Love said.
That 38-yard catch and run set up the Huskies to score once more, again on a Childers run, for what was a 17-14 third-quarter lead.
The play was another example of Love elevating his play during his first year of college ball.
“I caught up to the speed real quickly,” Love said. “Beginning of the season was a little tough, but I believe I adjusted real well.”
Love finished the day with three receptions for 60 yards.
“He played like a freshman earlier, but he’s starting to get his feet underneath him,” NIU coach Thomas Hammock said. “He’s going to be a guy that we’re going to depend on over the last five games to make plays for us because he’s got good hands, and he’s good with the ball in his hands.”
Cole Tucker led the Huskies in receptions for the second consecutive game, making six catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. Spencer Tears caught four passes for 33 yards. Daniel Crawford and Mitchell Brinkman each had three receptions.
“It helps a lot the older receivers, they’re embracing us,” Love said. “They’re helping us a lot. Once I know what I’m doing, I can help other people and vice versa.”
The expectation from the Huskies’ coaching staff going forward, Hammock said, is that Love will be heavily involved in the offense.
“He’s been a good player since he’s got here,” Hammock said. “But when the game got big for him in some of those early games and now it starts to slow down, he’s making the plays we expect him to make.”
With NIU having played in its fourth consecutive game decided by one score, one or two more plays in the passing game have the potential to change outcomes.
“They made more plays than we did,” Childers said. “They executed better than we did, and it’s not good enough.”