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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 3, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Huskie Stadium (24,000) -- DeKalb, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: UMass 0-3, NIU 4-0. Away Record: UMass 0-5, NIU 4-0. Neutral Record: UMass 0-0, NIU 0-1. Conference Record: UMass 0-4, NIU 5-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAME NOTES: Northern Illinois returns to Huskie Stadium looking to defend its 19-game home winning streak as the Massachusetts Minutemen try to pull off a Mid-American Conference upset.
The Minutemen's first season as a member of the FBS has been frustrating as they are still winless after eight games. UMass closed out its non-conference slate last week with a 49-7 loss at Vanderbilt. Six of the team's eight setbacks have been by 24 points or more. First-year head coach Charles Molnar has a tough task this week as he aims to snap his squad's FBS leading 11-game active losing streak.
NIU is one of just three teams left in the MAC without a loss in league action. The Huskies picked up their eighth win in a row by running past Western Michigan for a 48-34 road triumph. NIU is one of just three teams in the FBS, along with Oregon and Alabama, to have won 17 of its last 18 games. Coach Dave Doeren led the program to the MAC Championship last season and now has an 18-4 record as he nears the end of his second year in DeKalb.
This will be the first meeting in history between these programs on the gridiron.
The UMass offense has yet to catch up to the higher level of competition, as it puts up just 268.0 ypg and ranks last in the FBS in scoring (11.2 ppg).
Mike Wegzyn threw all four of his touchdown passes this season a few weeks back in a game versus Ohio University, but otherwise he has found next to no success under center, completing 51.5 percent of his passes for 150.9 passing ypg and seven interceptions. A.J. Doyle has also seen action, but he too has played poorly (21-of-43, 146 yards, four INTs, one TD).
Deion Walker (40 receptions, 475 yards, two TDs) has proven to be a reliable target for Wegzyn, and Alan Williams (21 receptions, 219 yards, three TDs) has been a factor in the red zone.
Michael Cox is the team's lead back, but his production has been rather pedestrian with 128 carries for 488 yards and three touchdowns. As a team, the Minutemen average just 2.9 yards per rush attempt.
While the offense has certainly struggled, the defense has also done little to impress (41.8 ppg, 465.0 ypg). UMass recorded two takeaways last week versus Vanderbilt, but allowed the Commodores to pick up 6.1 yards per run and 12.8 yards per pass completion.
The increased volume of work has made Perry McIntyre one of the top tacklers in the nation (84 tackles, 3.5 TFL). Darren Thellen (50 tackles) has two interceptions, but as a team UMass has created only 10 takeaways in eight games.
The Huskies seem to be unstoppable since their week one loss to Iowa, averaging 40.8 points and nearly 500 yards of total offense in the games since. NIU leads the MAC in rushing yards and points scored.
Jordan Lynch is at the center of NIU's attack and may be the most explosive quarterback in the nation. He is the leader of all FBS players with 3,169 total offensive yards, which is more than 45 FBS programs. While he is clearly a huge threat as a runner with the second most rushing yards (1,185) in the nation, he also has been superb as a passer, completing 61.5 percent of his attempts for 1,984 yards and 17 TDs with only three interceptions.
Although Lynch is the main weapon in the offense, Leighton Settle is a capable back with 453 yards and five TDs on 101 touches.
Martel Moore is Lynch's primary target in the passing game. Moore has roped in 48 passes for 717 yards and seven of the team's 17 touchdown receptions. Tommylee Lewis and Ashford Perez have both managed to tally over 200 receiving yards as well. Jamison Wells and Luke Eakes have a chance to step up this week with Perez questionable due to an ankle injury.
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 (19.9) in the MAC.
Sean Progar, Joe Windsor, and Alan Baxter have all shown great pass rushing ability this season. Progar has recorded seven sacks and 7.5 total tackles for loss, Windsor has 10 TFLs and 6.5 sacks, Baxter has produced 6.0 sacks and eight TFLs. Jimmie Ward is a key component of the defense with a team-high of 70 tackles and two interceptions.
UMass has been at the mercy of its opponents on multiple occasions this season. The Minutemen allowed Denard Robinson and Michigan to gain six rushing TDs against them earlier in the season. Lynch is not quite the same type of runner as Robinson, but his production is even greater. The Huskies will have no problem with UMass on either side of the football.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 49, Massachusetts 10
10/31 10:44:55 ET
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