Battleground State: Football zips to Ohio

Jordan Lynch (6) and Martel Moore (1) celebrate a TD in Muncie.
Jordan Lynch (6) and Martel Moore (1) celebrate a TD in Muncie.

Dave Doeren hasn’t coached his Huskie football team against Akron – NIU last played the Zips in 2010 under previous management – but his squad is reminiscent of that earlier group.

Chandler Harnish and Co. secured a 50-14 win at InfoCision Stadium – a rousing 36-point margin of victory – while current QB Jordan Lynch and Co. are still basking in the glow of an improbably more-decisive 45-3 rout of Buffalo last weekend.

Yes, NIU’s gridiron warriors are scary good this fall.

After finishing the 2011 season on a nine-game winning streak, Northern Illinois has won 15 of its last 16 games, with the only loss by one point to Iowa in the 2012 season opener. The team’s five-game road winning streak is tied for fifth-longest in the nation.

Lynch has more rushing yards than any quarterback in the country (918) and ranks in the Top seven in the nation in total offense. Receiver Martel Moore became just the fifth NIU player to pass the 2,000-yard mark in career receiving yards with his seventh career 100-yard game.

NIU’s defense, meanwhile, ranks fifth in the nation in red zone efficiency as opponents have scored only nine touchdowns on 28 trips inside the Huskie 20. Cornerback Marlon Moore, a true freshman, was named the Mid-American Conference West Division Defensive Player of the Week Monday.

And, for the numerologists, these two Mid-American Conference teams have mirror-image records: NIU is 6-1, 3-0 in the conference. Akron is 1-6, 0-3.

Ken Bishop makes a tackle.
Ken Bishop makes a tackle.

None of this means that Doeren and his team will take this Saturday’s matchup lightly, however.

“Akron leads the conference in passing, and they’re ninth in the nation in passing offense right now. They’ve got a fifth-year transfer at quarterback who has already played in Coach Bowden’s offense. He kind of brought him along with him in the transition,” Doeren says.

“They’re fifth in the league with 33 points per game on offense. They’re third in the MAC in total offense. They’re about to break their school record in total offense here in a couple weeks,” he adds. “They’ve outscored their opponents in the fourth quarter, which tells you that they’re playing hard. I think that’s an impressive stat for any team. We have the same stat. They were doing a great job last week in the Ohio game. They made it really interesting in the fourth quarter.”

Game time is 11 a.m. CT. Huskie fans can watch the action on ESPN Regional.

Leaving the friendly confines of Huskie Stadium, where NIU has won 19 straight, is not a concern for Doeren. His team also travels next weekend to Kalamazoo, Mich.

Juwan Brescacin
Juwan Brescacin

“We’ve been pretty good on the road of late. When I first got here, it wasn’t that way at the beginning of the season, but once we got into that stretch, our guys have learned how to adapt and really enjoy the experience together,” he says.

“When we practice, we’ll be at the opposite end of the field. That’s what we do when we got on road trips. We’ll do everything at the other end and snap them into the fact that it’s different than playing at home,” he says. “I think it takes a lot of focus and discipline to play like you do at home on the road. That’s something we have done by winning, but we haven’t played a four-quarter game the way we have here now.”

Defensive tackle Anthony Wells says he and his teammates are ready for the challenge of playing a run offense such as Akron’s rather than one that relies on passing.

“It tough, but our coaches do a great job of putting together a game plan. We just follow what they say. Just trust in the scheme, everybody’s all in one the scheme and you’ll have a good outcome,” Wells says.

“The gap fits, the stunts we run, the plays we call, almost everything, especially depending on the type of quarterback we’re playing,” he adds. “Whether it’s a passing quarterback or a running quarterback, we have to be gap-sound.”

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

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