“They’re kind of like us from the standpoint that they’ve struggled on the road and played well at home. Statistically they’re a lot better football team at home than they are on the road,” Doeren said.
“We have a tough challenge this week taking what we do here and trying to do it a heck of a lot better somewhere else
But Doeren has high hopes for his Huksies in the 11 a.m. (Central Time) game Oct. 22 as NIU rides the momentum of a 55-21 wind-whipped romp over Western Michigan in last Saturday’s Homecoming game.
“Our team really caught fire there in the third quarter and executed. Did enough to stay in the game in the first half; had to overcome some pretty big field position adversity defensively,” the coach said.
“We just came out with a lot of energy and really executed in all three phases to close out the game. Chandler had a career game for him, so I’m proud of him,” he added. “It’s the second week in a row our offensive line has held the defense to zero sacks. It says a lot when you can run the ball and protect your quarterback that way.”
NIU’s defense also stood up for the second consecutive week, holding Western Michigan to only field goals in the first quarter via a taut red zone presence.
Huskie defenders have recorded 12 sacks in the last two games.
Good tackles on first and second downs turned into third-and-long situations for the Broncos from Kalamazoo as well as Kent State the week before.
Western Michigan wide receiver Jordan White was kept to less than 100 yards on a dozen catches, Doeren said. QB Alex Carder, who leads the Mid-American Conference in passing yards, was “bottled up.”
“We got some takeaways on defense, and the defensive line continued their pressure – being in throwing lanes. Thought our defensive staff and offensive staff both did a nice job putting together a game plan our kids could execute in the weather conditions we had,” Doeren said.
“We’re a better defense than we were at the beginning of the season. We’re playing four quarters, we’re playing more sound, we’re keeping the ball in front, we’re not giving up as many big plays. We’re being put in some tough spots field position-wise and responding.”
Defensive lineman Anthony Wells agreed the squad is maturing as the season marches on.
“Up front, we put pressure on ourselves to make an impact on the game,” Wells said.
“Lately, the last two games, we’ve been doing that; we just need to keep that up,” he added. “It has a lot to do with us young guys, who haven’t had a lot of game experience, getting more comfortable with the system. Trusting ourselves and having confidence.”
“Everybody’s clicking. It starts with the defensive line. They get a lot of pressure. Then, going to the linebackers and DBs, everyone’s just doing their job,” agreed safety Demetrius Stone.
“It just shows what our defense is really capable of. We had a rough beginning of the season, but the last two games we have set the tone where we actually can compete. It just set a standard that we can achieve for the rest of the game.”
The Huskies quickly moved past the exhilaration of Saturday’s victory by returning to work Sunday to watch film of the Buffalo Bulls.
NIU (4-3, 2-1) leads the overall series 6-1, losing only the first match-up and taking both previous contests in New York.
Buffalo (2-5, 12) will “do everything they can” to win this weekend, Doeren said.
“Like every defense we play, they’re going to play their system. They’ll try to fit the rules of the system to defend our plays. They’re a little bit different schematically; probably more similar to Kent in their fronts. They’re a lot more multiple up front than Western was. They’ll be in a 3-4 look, and then they’ll get into what we call a field or under look, with a three and a five to one side,” Doeren said.
“We’re playing the second-leading rusher in the MAC, a QB that’s thrown for over 300 yards many times, and a defense that has one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the country. We’ve got our hands full, for sure, this week,” he added. “Coach Quinn is a Chicagoland native, and he’ll want to play well against our football team. His staff will do a nice job.”
For his part, Coach Doeren is hoping the Huskie special teams will step up.
“We had a punt there in the first half where the personal protector stepped in before the ball cleared him, and that’s something that has never happened – through spring, fall, games,” he said. “That’s a mental mistake, and we can’t make mental mistakes on an easy thing like that.”
The game will be televised regionally on WPWR My50 in Chicago and WTVO ABC17 in Rockford. The game will also be available on ESPN3 through the WatchESPN.com website.