While Joey Elliot might have had some trouble sleeping after his play in Eugene, Oregon last Saturday night, the game against the Huskies will be a chance for him to bounce right back and continue to show the progress being made by a heretofore unknown offensive commodity. With Ralph Bolden leading the Boilers on offense (and the nation, by the way), the Boilers added some firepower in the passing game, with a bevy of receivers making plays over the course of the previous two ballgames. Elliot has done well spreading the wealth in the passing game, and will look to continue the trend vs NIU.
For Purdue, the Huskies aren't the cupcake on the schedule everyone may initially be inclined to believe they were, as NIU dropped their season opener by a 28-20 margin to fellow Big Ten member Wisconsin - in Madison. While the Badgers controlled the game, NIU rallied in the final stanza and scored the 20th point with over two minutes to go in the game. The ensuing onside kick didn't work and the Badgers ran out the clock from that point.
Last week Northern Illinois destroyed Western Illinois by a score of 41-7, as running back Chad Spann scored three rushing touchdowns to lead the Huskies. So there is not much chance NIU will be that intimidated or in awe coming into their third game of the season -their second against the Big Ten. That's where the Purdue defense comes in and where it needs to step up. As it stands right now defensively, the Boilers are a ghastly 100th in total defense in the nation. They are 66th nationally vs the run and 107th against the pass, allowing close to 293 yards per game through the air. Certainly it is much too early to panic, but some improvement needs to be made this weekend as the start of conference play looms ever so closer.
For Northern Illinois, Huskies head coach Jerry Kill is now in his 2nd season at the helm and knows he has an uphill battle vs the Boilermakers, especially considering the youth on his NIU ballclub. Over half the team hadn't played a single down for the Huskies until opening day back in September. But while they may be a relatively young team, those who start and those who have contributed are making an impact. And several of the starters on offense for the Huskies are products of Indiana high school football,including starting quarterback Chandler Harnish, who is a Bluffton, Indiana native.
In fact, according to a story by Mike Breese ( on NIU's Red and Black Attack website ), Harnish is one of 8 players who grew up in Indiana and now don the red and black of NIU. Harnish said he will have over 300 or so family and friends on hand at Ross-Ade Stadium to see him play, but almost all of those grew up Boilermaker fans. As did Harnish. When the Huskies have the ball they'll be relying on the running tandem of Sophomore Me'co Brown and Junior Chad Spann. An Indianapolis native, Spann is currently tied for second in the nation in individual scoring. Ironically, Spann shares that honor currently with Purdue's Ralph Bolden, as well as six other players in NCAA play to date. Through the air, Harnish will do much like his Purdue counterpart at QB and spread the ball around. In the game against Wisconsin he was hitting not only his wideouts, but utilzing the fullback and tight end as well, giving the Huskies the advantage of constantly making defenses guess where he will go next. of so the Boiler defense will need to be ready for Harnish to go any direction on the field.
Keys to the game:
The Huskies will need to avoid any turnovers and cut down the mental mistakes that plagued them early on against Wisconsin. If they do that and exploit the currently vulnerable Purdue secondary, NIU has a shot.
For Purdue, turnovers will be a factor as well, but the defense must step up. The Boilers offensive line must likely continue to play as well as they have in the first two games. Doing so will ensure they can control the clock and put points on the board.
In fact, if the Boilermakers can play as well as they did against Oregon offensively (sans turnovers, of course) then things could get a little ugly for the Huskies. Especially if the defense comes to life on Saturday.