Huskies Head to Glass Bowl

Coach Jerry Kill and his NIU Huskies (3-2, 1-0) are making their mark going paw-to-paw with Wisconsin, topping Purdue, embarrassing the two Westerns - Illinois and Michigan, and a stumble coming up short against a good Idaho team. Read on for more on the Huskies and the Rockets.

Question: How do you make Huskies salivate?

Answer: Show them game tapes of WMU at Toledo.


Coach Jerry Kill and his NIU Huskies (3-2, 1-0) are making their mark going paw-to-paw with Wisconsin, topping Purdue, embarrassing the two Westerns - Illinois and Michigan, and a stumble coming up short against a good Idaho team. Picked no better than third place in the MAC West preseason predictions, the Huskies have established themselves as one of the top teams in the MAC.

On Offense

The Huskies are thriving on a diet of grind ‘em out running (21st in the nation, 1st in the MAC) with a pair of dogs accounting for 749 yards out of the teams 1007 total rushing yardage. Me'co Brown (5'7", 185#, 6.0 yard per rush) and Chad Spann (5'9", 195#, 4.7 yards per rush) have accounted for a dozen TDs on the ground. Brown has scored three touchdowns with Spann finding the end zone ten times, including once on a pass reception. Equally impressive is that as a team, the Huskies are averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

The hole-makers for NIU are led by two seniors, LG Jason Onyebuagu (6'2", 307#) and C Eddie Adamski (6'3", 284#). Both were 3rd team All-MAC last year.

NIU sophomore Chandler Harnish has developed into another quality MAC QB. Last year he set a Northern Illinois freshman-record with 2,067 yards of total offense. With this year's run-heavy offense, Chandler has been a reliable passer connecting with a dozen receivers at a 64.7% completion rate and 810 yards with one INT. Only WR Landon Cox (6'3", 213#) has double-digit receptions (13) for 107 yards. Six receivers have one TD catch each.

Kicking Game

If the Huskies get tangled up in their hardness, Mike Salerno is connecting on nearly 73% of his field goal attempts, missing only once inside the 50 yard line. He is perfect on his 16 PATS.

Punting duties are handled mainly by Josh Wilber, averaging nearly 40 yards per punt. Mike Salerno is putting his kick-offs consistently inside the five yard line. He has punted a handful of times averaging 39.5 yards per punt as well.

Tommy Davis handles kickoff returns (23.1 ypr) and punt returns (7.9 ypr). Huskies kickoff coverage has been good limiting opponents to a season long return of 34 yards. Punt coverage has been a bit more problematic though, with opponents averaging almost 13 yards per return, including a 62 yard return for a TD. They did, however, block one punt at a crucial time in the Idaho game leading to a NIU score bringing the Huskies to within three points of the Vandals at that point in the game.

On Defense

The NIU defense has been consistent against both the run and the pass, ranking at or above the midpoint both nationally and in the MAC. SS Tracy Wilson (44 tackles) and LB Cory Hanson (31 tackles, 2 INTs) are the leaders on defense. The defensive line linebacking corps have done a good job of getting their hands up deflecting or altering passes. While not racking up large numbers of QB sacks nor hurries, the Huskies continually apply pressure to opposing QBs.


What to look for:

Chandler to employ a short to mid range passing game.

Huskies TEs in red zone passing game.

Huskies favor running to their left.

Few turnovers from the Huskies as they don't fumble much and have only thrown one INT the whole season.

Brown for a 30+ yard run if the Rockets don't shore up their run defense.

Few QB sacks by either team.

A steady diet of Brown and Spann.


Summary

This is a HUGE game for the Rockets if they want to be any type of contender in the MAC West. If the Rockets of last Saturday night show up it will be a L-O-N-G night. If the Rockets who opened at home against Colorado take the field it will be an interesting game. The Rockets cannot afford turnovers nor penalties. NIU is too good for the Rockets to play out of a hole. The Rockets will need to stay close in the first half, particularly in the second quarter, which has been a feeding-frenzy for the Huskies this year.

Toledo, regardless of who is at QB, will need to employ its full cadre of receivers. This is what enabled the Vandals to hold off the Huskies. To win, Toledo must play all four quarters with intensity and smarts. The Huskies are strong closers, outscoring their opponents 46 to 13 in the fourth quarter.

The Broncos who showed up Saturday where not the same team that visited NIU the week before. Hopefully the same will be true of the Rockets.


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