For the Northern Illinois Huskies, the 2014 season starts at home against FCS opponent Presbyterian. The Blue Hose, out of the Big South Conference, will make the trip north from Clinton, South Carolina to face a Huskie team that has won their last 26 games at Huskie Stadium. However, this is a new season and there are still some questions for the Huskies, most notably who replaces Jordan Lynch under center. This is the game we'll get some answers.
Presbyterian Blue Hose 2013 Rewind:
The last decade or so have not been kind to the Blue Hose. Last season Presbyterian lost eight - including their last four games - while winning only three (against Brevard, VMI, and Point University). Their losses were usually big, never scoring more than 21 in any loss, and losing five games by 20+ points. However, in their wins they were very good, scoring 140 points in those three games, which is more than half of their season total (59.6%, they scored 235 points all season).
With an odd team name such as the Blue Hose, I had no idea what to expect from a mascot. Maybe a firefighter? Or perhaps one of those expandable hoses you see on infomercials at 3 a.m., but no. Turns out Scotty the Scotsman, a medieval Scottish warrior, leads them into battle. And as for thier team name, it comes from the socks that the football team wore in the early 1900s.
Presbyterian plays in the Big South Conference, a conference not quite known for it's football...yet. They are getting better and the conference has had seven players drafted in the last seven years. The Blue Hose are in the South division along with Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, Gardner-Webb, UNC-Asheville, and Winthrop.
Last Bowl Appearance:
It has been a very, very long time since Presbyterian has made a bowl game. The only bowl game they have ever made was the 1959 Tangerine Bowl, where they lost 12-21 to Middle Tennessee State. However, in 2005, as a D-II team, they made the playoffs where they lost to Central Arkansas in the second round.
The Blue Hose are led by Harold Nichols. An alumnus, Nichols has lead the Blue Hose since 2009 but times have been pretty tough for him. In five seasons he has gone 9-44, including losing his first 17 games. He has yet to win more than four games in a season. Before taking the reigns at Presbyterian, Nichols was the offensive coordinator at Bucknell.
Five Key Players:
- Heys McMath - sophomore QB (6'4, 200lb)
- Tobi Antigha - senior WR (6'4, 200lb)
- Ed Britt - junior CB (6'0, 185lb)
- Ugonna Akoh - sophomore LB (6'3, 200lb)
- Jeremiah McKie - senior WR (6'0, 180lb)
While I'm not too sure what kind of offensive playbook they use, I can tell you that their offense last year was not very good, but it was a pretty balance attack. Presbyterian averaged 176.5 passing yards per game and 147.8 rushing yards per game. Inside the redzone they love to run the ball, as they had 21 rushing TDs last season and only 14 passing TDs.
Throwing the ball last season they gained 1941 yards while completing 61 percent of their passes. They did have problems keeping the ball though as they threw 13 interceptions and only 14 touchdowns. They used two different quarterbacks: McMath and Kaleb Griffin (with Tamyn Garrick coming in on occasion). McMath seemed to be the most consistent one. Last year McMath had 1142 yards, 10 TDs, and 5 INTs while Griffin managed 635 yards, 2 TD, and 4 INTs.
Demarcus Rouse was their go-to running back, he carried the ball 103 times for 514 yards and seven TDs. LaQua Mayes was a consistent number two, netting 320 yards and three TDs on 71 carries. As for receivers, there are two main threats: Antigha and McKie. Last season Antigha led the team in receptions (54), yards (746), and touchdowns (6) while McKie was second in grabs (38) and yardage (487) and had two TDs.
Once again, scheme wise I'm not sure what they run. But they do have a couple of great players on that side of the ball. Junior cornerback Ed Britt spearheads the defense. Last season he led the team in tackles (with 69, including six tackles for a loss), pass break ups (6), and also had a fumble recovery and blocked a kick. They also have a beast of a linebacker in Ugonna Akoh. Last season, as a freshman, he recorded 39 tackles, but 14 of those were in the backfield! He also had 3.5 sacks. Teams lost a total of 79 yards because of him last season (57 yards on tackles in the backfield and 22 yards on sacks). Akoh also forced and recovered a fumble.
However, despite the strong play from those two, the rest Presbyterian's defense did not play too well. They gave up over 425 yards per game last year and teams averaged 32.5 points per game. They especially struggled against the run - allowing just under 227 rushing yards per game, 4.6 yards/rush, and 29 total rushing touchdowns. Their pass defense was a little better - holding teams to just 16 touchdowns and under 200 yards per game (198.8/game). Presbyterian struggled at getting interceptions, with only two all season, but they did force, and recover, 10 fumbles.
The Blue Hose were terrible at field goals. Yes, even worse than NIU was. They only attempted five all season, had two blocked, and made just one (a 34-yard attempt). In fact they were so bad, their punter doubled as their kicker for most of the year. Instead of kicking they would go for it on 4th down a lot (and I don't blame them). Last year they they tried 18 times on 4th-down and were successful on 11 attempts.
As far as punting goes, Stephen Doar (the man that also made their only field goal), was very busy last season. He punted the ball 58 times for 2196 yards (38 yards/kick) with no touchbacks, 17 inside the 20-yard line, and a long of 52. Not bad numbers at all.
While we don't know for sure who will be under center for NIU, it should be safe to say that this game is a win for them. The Huskies won more games last season than Presbyterian has won in the last 6 years combined, NIU has not lost at home since 2009, Presbyterian has been annihilated 148-10 in their last three games against FBS teams (Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest), and the fact that NIU runs the ball very often and very well - something the Blue Hose struggle with - are all indicators that NIU should win and win easily. That being said, with Northwestern being the next game, NIU can't afford to look past this game to the Wildcats. Even with Lynch and Jimmie Ward gone, the Huskies have enough depth and talent at the skill positions to get their 27th straight win at Huskie Stadium.