(24) Northern Illinois (10-1) at Eastern Michigan (2-9)
Friday, November 23, 1 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 24th-ranked Northern Illinois Huskies look to extend their FBS
leading conference winning streak to 15 in a row as they invade Rynearson
Stadium for their regular-season finale against their Mid-American Conference
rival Eastern Michigan Eagles.
Northern Illinois has finally made its way back into the top 25, and for good
reason. NIU has been dominant in recent history and is the only team in the
FBS with 19 wins in its last 20 games. Despite the unparalleled success, the
team is staying focused.
"It's a tremendous privilege to be ranked, but we still have to play our
game," said cornerback Rashaan Melvin. "It tells us we're one of the best
teams in the country. In order to continue to be ranked, we must keep
The Huskies punched their ticket to the MAC Championship game for a third
straight season last Wednesday with a 31-24 victory over Toledo. The triumph
over the Rockets was NIU's 10th straight win overall, 21st straight win at
home, and 14th straight over a MAC rival. The team has not been defeated since
its season opener on Nov. 1, when it fell 18-17 to Iowa at Soldier Field.
Coach Dave Doeren has a very impressive 21-4 record since taking over the helm
of the program.
The Eagles will be ending their 2012 season in this one as the dream of a
postseason berth died weeks ago. EMU made it evident it will play hard down
the stretch as it took down Western Michigan, 29-26, for its first MAC win of
the season. Coach Ron English and his team have won back-to-back games yet
this year and there is no doubt that English would love to send off his 18
seniors with a win over a ranked opponent after compiling a 2-9 overall record
to this point.
This will be the 43rd meeting between these schools in history. NIU holds a
26-14-2 edge after its 18-12 victory last season in DeKalb.
NIU leads the MAC in both scoring offense and total offense with averages of
39.7 points and 488.7 total offensive yards per game. The offense revolves
around junior quarterback Jordan Lynch, who set a pair of NCAA records in last
week's win over Toledo. Lynch became the first quarterback in FBS history to
pass for more than 400 yards and rush for more than 150 yards in a single game
and also became the first quarterback in FBS history to run for 100 yards or
more in nine straight games. Lynch is closing in on Michigan QB Denard
Robinson's single season rushing record by a quarterback, but his head coach
firmly believes he is much more than just a scrambler.
"Obviously, Jordan's game to run for over 150 yards and throw for over 400 is
something that has never been done in college football, which says a lot,"
said Doeren. "There have been a lot of great quarterbacks that have played
this game and that have played since the invention of the spread. I think he
has shown now that he is more than just a runner in multiple games."
Lynch ranks third in the nation in rushing yards (1,504), total offense
(4,086), and points responsible for (38 total TDs).
Martel Moore is Lynch's primary target in the passing game. Moore has reeled
in 58 passes for 899 yards and 10 of the team's 23 touchdown receptions.
Tommylee Lewis (459) and Ashford Perez (299) have both made their mark in the
passing attack as well.
Defensively, NIU allows opponents to gain decent yardage but still manages to
keep teams from lighting up the scoreboard. Due to their bend but not break
mentality, the Huskies have the second best scoring defense (18.5) in the MAC.
Sean Progar, Joe Windsor, and Alan Baxter are a three-headed monster when it
comes to attacking opposing quarterbacks and ball carriers. Progar has
recorded eight sacks and 9.5 total tackles for loss, Windsor has 10 TFLs and
6.5 sacks, Baxter has produced 8.5 sacks and 10.5 TFLs. Jimmie Ward (81) and
Tyrone Clark (74) are first and second on the team in total tackles,
The Eagles had a solid offensive performance for the second week in a row as
the racked up 369 yards of total offense without a single turnover versus
Western Michigan. EMU still has the worst total offense (345.4) and second
lowest scoring offense (22.6 ppg) in the conference.
Bronson Hill showed he is the best option on the offensive unit by producing a
two-game outburst to spark the Eagles' attack earlier in the season. Hill had
never rushed the ball more than four times in a game in his career before
compiling 283 yards and four touchdowns on 28 rushes against Toledo. The
sophomore was a duel threat with 77 rushing yards and 59 receiving yards his
last time out.
The quarterback position has not been very stable for the Eagles this season.
Alex Gillett, who started the past three seasons, was benched early on in the
season. Tyler Benz came in and showed promise before dropping into an ugly
slump. English then decided to keep both quarterbacks on the field as
Gillett's speed allows him to play wideout as well.
Last week, Gillett contributed in numerous ways as he carried the ball nine
times for 60 rushing yards, made five receptions for 45 yards with a
touchdown, and completed a 37-yard pass on his only throw. Benz did a solid
job under center by passing for 137 yards and two touchdowns without an
Garrett Hoskins is the primary weapon in EMU's passing attack. His season
totals of 36 receptions and 524 yards are more than double the combined
statistics of the team's second and third leading receivers.
The Eagles' defense has struggled all season long, surrendering 485.6 yards
and 36.6 points per game. The biggest concern for coach English going into a
game against Lynch has to be his rush defense, which ranks last in the FBS
with an allowed average of 269.3 yards.
Justin Cudworth is leading the Eagles with 85 total stops. Last week, Bryan
Pali and Alex Bellfy both made 10 tackles to tie for the team-lead. Bellfy
also recovered a fumble.
Although the Eagles are not going to roll over, they are not equipped to stop
the Lynch-led offense. NIU will have no problem moving the ball and scoring
points as they close out the regular season with a perfect conference record.