Go NavyIU, beat Army

Akeem Daniels
Akeem Daniels

Coach Dave Doeren and the NIU Huskies football team play their first road game of 2012 Saturday when they travel to West Point, N.Y., to face the U.S. Army Black Knights.

NIU owns a 1-1 record after earning their first win of the season last weekend with a 35-7 victory over UT Martin at Huskie Stadium.

Quarterback Jordan Lynch ran for 60 yards and three touchdowns against UT Martin and completed 19 of 25 passes for 214 yards. In his first career start at tailback, junior Leighton Settle ran for 106 yards on 21 carries to record the second 100-yard day of the season for NIU.

The series between NIU and Army (0-1) is tied at one win each; the Huskies claimed a 49-26 victory over Army in the 2011 season opener in DeKalb.

Saturday’s kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. NIU fans can watch the broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.

Last week’s game left Doeren “obviously happy to get our first win of the season and excited about how our guys came out to play in the game.”

“Coming off a tough loss the week before it’s easy to have a letdown, especially when you’re facing a team from a lower level division. I thought we came out an executed our game plan the right way,” he said.

“Offensively, we were in sync. A lot of players touched the football. We were very balanced in what we did,” he added. “I thought in the red zone, we could have played better offensively. I was disappointed we turned the football over and missed a field goal down there. It is probably the biggest area that I’d like to see us improve on this week.”

Huskie defenders Tyrone Clark (36) and Ken Bishop (93)
Huskie defenders Tyrone Clark (36) and Ken Bishop (93)

The defense “did a great job stopping the run,” the coach said, while NIU safety Jimmie Ward collected MAC West Defensive Player of the Week honors for making 10 tackles, breaking up two passes and intercepting one.

“I’m proud of not just for him, but for our staff for putting together a game plan that allows our players to earn those kinds of accolades,” Doeren said. “I think it says a lot about the schemes they’re running and the ways those guys are playing. I think they’re playing fast.”

“Bringing physicality to the game on the defensive side of the ball is one of the most important things. It sets the tone for the rest of the game and it sets the standard for where we want to be as a defense,” linebacker Michael Santacaterina said. “We want to be as physical as possible for every game. That is what we work on in practice.”

“Definitely, in the first game, we set the standard for ourselves playing tough against Iowa,” safety Dechane Durante added. “The second game was the same. This year, we’re trying to take a physical outlook on everything, try to come to every game and not give up points and play hard.”

Going into West Point, Doeren said, the Huskies will face numerous challenges.

Although Army has struggled on the road, the cadets play “extremely well at home.” Last year’s road loss on Huskie Stadium’s Brigham Field was followed two weeks later by a 21-14 win over Northwestern in New York.

The Black Knights boasted the No. 1 rushing offense in college football last year, averaging 346 yards per game. Their flex defense is “pretty unique in college football” and requires difficult preparation.

Perhaps most daunting is competing at legendary Michie Stadium, which Sports Illustrated ranked No. 3 on its list of the “Top 20 Venues of the 20th Century.”

Jordan Lynch
Jordan Lynch

“Going into an environment like West Point, you can’t be distracted by the environment. You have to focus on the game itself and play within that,” Doeren said.

“We’ve got to do a tremendous job of not beating ourselves on the road, which I think we did at Soldier Field. If we can put together a game like that where we don’t turn the football over and do what we did at home last week in getting three turnovers, then we have a great chance to be in that game in the fourth quarter.”

Players are living and breathing a week-long dogma of “discipline,” the coach said.

“It’s the No. 1 thing we have to do. You will see that word all over the building this week. It’s the theme of the week for the football team,” Doeren said. “They are the Army. How do you beat the Army if you are not disciplined? It’s the key you have to be.”

For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.

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