DeKalb, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The 23rd-ranked Northern Illinois Huskies put
their undefeated record on the line once more, this time in a home clash with
Mid-American Conference West Division foe Eastern Michigan.
Eastern Michigan comes in having won only once in seven opportunities this
season, but the team has been thrown into further turmoil following the tragic
death of wide receiver Demarius Reed. The junior was the apparent victim of a
violent robbery, and his senseless slaying has given the Eagles a renewed
sense of purpose as they stare down the final five games of the season, three
of which they'll play on the road. In the first outing after the incident
involving Reed, EMU suffered a 56-28 home loss to Ohio University last
Northern Illinois is 7-0 and has won 20 consecutive games against MAC rivals,
dating back to Oct. 1, 2011 when it lost at Central Michigan. The Huskies won
their 13th straight road game by claiming a 38-17 triumph at CMU last weekend,
and they still have two more away from home before what they hope is a trip to
MAC Championship Game in Detroit on Dec. 6.
Northern Illinois owns a 27-14-2 advantage in the all-time series with Eastern
Michigan, and the Huskies prevailed in last year's meeting, 49-7. The Eagles'
last win was a 21-19 decision in DeKalb on Sept. 15, 2007.
Eastern Michigan doesn't have the most potent offense around, the team
averaging just 19.7 points and 367.9 yards per contest -- both figures ranking
the Eagles in the middle of the Mid-American Conference pack. Quarterback
Tyler Benz has completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 1,403 yards, nine TDs
and eight interceptions, with guys like Tyreese Russell, Dustin Creel and Jay
Jones all logging at least 22 receptions for a combined 919 yards and six
scores. As for the EMU rushing attack, Bronson Hill has been highly productive
in amassing 752 yards while finding the end zone four times. His 107.4 ypg
ranks as the fifth-best average in the league.
The Eagles defense has been battered and bruised all season long, the unit
giving up a MAC-worst 42.3 ppg. That number actually ranks the team 120th of
the 123 teams currently charted at the Football Bowl Subdivision, and the one
area in which it really struggles is against the run (246.3 ypg, 30 TDs
allowed). Despite the unit's obvious difficulties, there are some guys who
have produced for coach Ron English's club, notably Mycal Swaim (49 tackles,
one INT), Ike Spearman (45 tackles, one INT) and Sean Kurtz (40 tackles, one
INT). Pat O'Connor has three of the team's 13 sacks, but with only six total
takeaways a glaring lack of big plays has hurt the Eagles' chances of being
What was once a tight 21-21 game midway through the third quarter turned into
a lopsided final as EMU suffered a 28-point loss to the Ohio Bobcats last
weekend. The Eagles used a punishing rushing attack to stay relevant, churning
out 315 yards in averaging 8.1 ypc. Unfortunately, they only scored once on
the ground despite a season-high 257-yard effort by Hill. Benz threw for 151
yards with a pair of TDs and two interceptions, with both Creel and Russell
pulling down scoring strikes.
Ohio generated 547 total yards last week, the bulk of which came through the
air (399), and they scored four times via the pass. The Bobcats were highly
efficient in converting 7-of-12 third-down chances, and they scored TDs on six
of their seven trips to the red zone. Spearman paced the EMU defense with 10
tackles, but only one was unassisted, while Swaim finished with nine stops and
Kurtz had eight.
Northern Illinois ranks first in the MAC in scoring offense (39.4 ppg),
rushing offense (304.7 ypg) and total offense (519.9 ypg), none of which is
surprising when you consider the outstanding season turned in by quarterback
Jordan Lynch. A 61.3 percent passer who has thrown for 1,488 yards (212.6 ypg)
with 14 TDs and only five interceptions, Lynch is the ultimate dual-threat
option as he is actually more dangerous when he tucks the ball away and
decides to take off, having run for 932 yards (second-most in the MAC) and
seven TDs. Also serving notice in the NIU run game is Cameron Stingily, as he
has carried the ball 133 times for 726 yards and seven scores himself.
Tommylee Lewis (50 rec., 400 yards, three TDs) and Da'Ron Brown (30 rec., 442
yards, five TDs) are the team's top receivers.
The Huskies are a solid defensive team, permitting an average of 26.6 ppg,
while clamping down on the run to the tune of a league-best 143.6 ypg allowed.
They are one of only two teams in the MAC to hold the opposition to single-
digit rushing TDs (six). That said, NIU has proven vulnerable against the
pass, yielding a conference-worst 300.3 ypg, and the 17 passing TDs it has
allowed is second-most. The Huskies have two guys who are at 50 tackles or
greater this season, as Jimmie Ward (55) and Jamaal Bass (50) have certainly
been busy, particularly Ward who is tied for the national lead with five
In last week's win at Central Michigan, Lynch established a new FBS record for
rushing yards by a quarterback, as he ran for 316 yards and three TDs on 32
carries. he added 151 yards in the passing game, hitting Lewis 10 times for 54
yards and a score. Stingily also proved effective on the ground, tallying 70
yards and a TD on 14 totes. In all, the Huskies generated 592 yards of total
offense, picked up 28 first downs, and scored on 6-of-8 trips to the red zone
NIU head coach Rod Carey praised his team after the CMU game, and spoke about
the multitude of options he has at his disposal on offense.
"With all the weapons we have - Jordan, Cameron Stingily, Da'Ron Brown and
Tommylee and our tight ends, each defense plays us a little differently,"
Carey said. "Defenses have to make a choice and then we take what they are
The Chippewas were held to 75 net rushing yards last week, averaging a mere
2.5 ypc and they did not score a TD on the ground. They did however, amass 271
yards and a pair of TDs via the pass. The Huskies managed to tighten the purse
strings on third down (3-of-11), while coming up with two turnovers and a pair
of sacks. Boomer Mays and Bass led the way with seven tackles apiece.
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