Northern Illinois (1-1) at Army (0-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 15, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Michie Stadium (38,000) -- West Point, New York.
Television: CBS Sports Network. Home Record: NIU 1-0, Army 0-0. Away Record:
NIU 0-0, Army 0-1. Neutral Record: NIU 0-1, Army 0-0. Conference Record: NIU
0-0, Army 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Army Black Knights try to end their four-game losing streak in
home openers on Saturday when they square off with the Northern Illinois
Huskies at Michie Stadium.
NIU is coming off a dominant display in which it used a balanced attack to
defeat UT Martin, 35-7, to improve its record to 1-1. The Huskies' loss came
against Iowa in their season opener at Soldier Field. The Hawkeyes needed a
late score to pull out an 18-17 victory over the reining MAC Champions. Head
coach Dave Doeren is in his second season as NIU's coach after leading the
program to 11 wins and a GoDaddy.com Bowl victory in his inaugural season.
The Black Knights are 0-1 after being handled, 42-7, by the San Diego State
Aztecs on the road in their season opener. Army showed that it will once
again primarily rely on the run as it amassed 282 yards on the ground in its
opener, but three turnovers set the team back and gave the Aztecs room to run
away with it. Head coach Rich Ellerson has yet to win a home opener in his
three previous seasons as Army's head coach. The Black Knights have lost their
last four home openers and their last five games overall dating back to last
season. Despite the overall losing slide, Army has won its last four games at
This will be the third overall meeting between these programs. Army earned a
21-14 victory in 1992 in the first-ever matchup, but NIU managed to even the
series by topping the Black Knights, 49-26, in last season's season opener in
DeKalb. Army went 0-4 against MAC opponents last season.
The Huskies are averaging 26.0 points and 314.0 yards of total offense per
contest through two games. NIU had an explosive offensive last season and
there were questions on how much would be lost without Chandler Harnish under
center. However, Jordan Lynch has shown he has what it takes to lead NIU back
to the conference championship in his first two starts.
Lynch's athleticism has helped him to team leading totals in passing (134.0
yards per game) and rushing (89.5 yards per game). While his elusiveness and
speed are huge assets, the dual-threat quarterback needs to prove he can rely
on his passing abilities to discourage opponents from stacking the line.
Martel Moore is the team's top receiver with 95 yards and a touchdown on eight
catches. Moore had a breakout performance in 2011's bowl game with 224 yards
and a touchdown on eight grabs. Perez Ashford has been quiet so far this
season with just two catches, but he is capable of punishing defenses that
sleep on him.
Defensively, NIU is limiting opponents to 307.0 yards and 12.5 points per
game. Jimmy Ward is off to a hot start with a team-best 22 stops, one
interception, and four broken up passes.
Joe Windsor and Alan Baxter are complementing each other nicely on the
Huskies' defensive line. Both players have recorded two sacks already. NIU has
recorded 15 total tackles for loss as a team, which is the second most in its
conference through two games.
Army's offensive line is unlikely to give up too many sacks due to the team's
consistently rush-based gameplan. Senior QB Trent Steelman is the Black
Knights' starter for the fourth season in a row. He came into 2012 needing six
wins to become the all-time winningest quarterback in school history. Steelman
was ineffective versus San Diego State, rushing for only three yards on nine
attempts, while completing 3-of-8 passes for 50 yards with two interceptions.
Although Steelman was unable to get anything going in the opener, Raymond
Maples and Terry Baggett each produced 100 yards in the loss. Maples led the
team with 107 yards on 19 carries, while Baggett finished with 100 and a
touchdown on only 13 rushes.
Larry Dixon, Jared Hassin, and backup quarterback Angel Santiago are
additional players featured in Army's wishbone offense.
Army's defense was unable to force a turnover as it gave up 443 yards and 42
points to San Diego State in its opener. The Black Knights allowed 5.4 yards
per carry and dropped to 2-13 in their last 15 games without forcing a
turnover. Their last win without forcing a turnover came last season against
Northwestern (21-14), whose quarterback, Kain Colter, has a very similar
playing style to NIU's Lynch.
The Black Knights will need one of their defenders to step up to replace the
leadership that was lost when star linebacker Steve Erzinger graduated. Senior
Nate Combs has been hinting he may be the best candidate to do so, with four
sacks in his last two games.
NIU appears to be solid defensively against the run as it is allowing just 2.5
yards per carry through its first two games. Iowa rushed the ball 49 times
against the Huskies but managed just 139 yards. Army's detailed rushing attack
is going to be tougher to stop, which could put pressure on NIU's
inexperienced offense. Lynch may not yet be quite as elite as his predecessor,
but he has shown the ability to make plays, which will be the difference
in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 24, Army 17
09/12 10:53:15 ET
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