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Bulls forget Temple, focused on NIU

Photo of Bulls greeting fans after win over Ohio by Dave Marino

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doeren recognizes the task that confronts the Huskies at noon Saturday at UB Stadium.  And it won’t be easy.

“So we’re going to have a game where we’re playing the second-leading rusher in the MAC [Branden Oliver], a QB that’s thrown for over 300 yards many times [Chazz Anderson], and a defense that has one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the country [Khalil Mack]. We’ve got our hands full, for sure, this week,” Doeren said in his weekly press conference.

Even if the Bulls are 2-5 overall (1-2 in the MAC), they’re not the used doormat that other conference teams will ravage mercilessly.  Graphic, huh?

On the heels of a 34-0 thumping at the claws of the Temple Owls, Buffalo looks to rebound at the friendly confines of UB Stadium where they’re 2-1.  The defense will face its stiffest test since the Tennessee debacle.  Northern Illinois (4-3 overall, 2-1 in the MAC) leads the conference in several categories: scoring offense, total offense, first downs, third down conversions, fewest sacks allowed and plays of 20+ yards.  The Husky offense has scored 40 or more points in every game this year. 

Quarterback Chandler Harnish is in the dark-horse Heisman conversation; no pundit seriously thinks the red-shirt senior has a chance, but the numbers aren’t too far behind Denard Robinson’s of Michigan.  Harnish is a true dual-threat star—he’s fourth in the conference in rushing with 671 yards (8.17 yards per carry)—and can hold his own throwing (second best completion percentage in MAC at 66%, 12:4 TD-to-INT ratio.)  The last rushing QB the Bulls faced—Ohio’s Tyler Tettleton—ripped off 66 yards and a score. 

Harnish has only faced Buffalo once in his three previous years at NIU, a 45-14 win for the Huskies last season in Dekalb where the QB threw for two scores and ran for another. 

The Husky defense, however, is much lower in the major categories: third last in scoring defense and second from the bottom in total defense.  In other words, we could be looking at another shootout like Buffalo’s 38-37 home victory over Ohio.  Branden Oliver must show the same form he displayed against Ohio, not against Temple.  The loss of Terrell Jackson is more of a “sad story to close a solid college career” than it actually hurts the Bulls’ present team—Ed Young and Fred Lee will share the third receiver role, while kick returns will likely be done by committee.

Prediction:  45-27 Northern Illinois.  Buffalo hangs around, but the mobile Harnish and his deep corps of receivers are too much for Buffalo’s vulnerable pass defense.

TAGGED: branden oliver, college football, jeff quinn, mac, northern illinois huskies, ub bulls, university at buffalo

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