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Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Northern Illinois Huskies: 5 Things Learned

Why have one overtime when you can have three of them?

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Northern Illinois Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

In one of the most exciting games of the conference season so far, Central Michigan and Northern Illinois met in DeKalb for a triple overtime barnburner that ultimately resulted in the Chippewas’ third straight victory over the Huskies.

While we learned that both teams are fans of monochromatic uniforms and that you have to make sure people are down before you stop playing, there were a few other things we learned as well:

It’s really hard to score if you don’t have the ball.

The coaching staff at CMU must have been reading the last couple of these 5TWL articles and saw what I said about the running game, because it came alive this week.

Devon Spalding and Jahray Hayes both had 22 carries and over 100 yards (Spalding with 122 yards, Hayes with 105 yards) on the ground, running all over the ragged Huskies defense for a touchdown apiece.

The renewed running game gave CMU a total time of possession of 41 minutes and one second of the 60 minutes of regulation, forcing the Huskies to make the most of their limited opportunities with the ball down the stretch.

While the Huskies managed to do it this time around, just the fact that CMU was able to generate that amount of rushing yards combined with Cooper Rush’s 254 yard, three touchdown day shows the great potential the Chips have moving forward.

The CMU defense tamed Anthony Maddie.

Maddie was playing like a man possessed against Akron and WMU the previous two weeks, eclipsing 300+ total yards in both matchups prior to Saturday’s game and he looked to have the Huskies on track to compete in the MAC West for the foreseeable future.

Well, it’s safe to say the CMU defense solved the enigma that was Anthony Maddie. The Chips held NIU to 4-15 on third-down (a vast improvement over the previous week against Ball State) and limited Maddie to 165 yards passing and 28 yards on the ground. Josh Cox stepped up with his second interception in as many weeks and Nathan Ricketts also plucked an interception to give the CMU defense their ninth and tenth interceptions this season.

NIU had to get creative with their skill players.

In a game where you get 339 total yards in only 19 minutes of possession, you’re going to have to be a bit outside of the box.

Joel Bouagnon and Argeros Turner had to become threats in both the run and pass game to score in quick bursts, as Kenny Golladay, the best skill player NIU has, was held to seven catches for 70 yards and no scores. Bouagnon finished the game with 51 total yards and a receiving touchdown while Turner had 96 total yards and two touchdowns (one receiving and one rushing) to help NIU gain yards in bunches in a quick amount of time.

If NIU could have managed to chew the clock down a bit more, they potentially could have prevented CMU from getting as many chances as they did. Maybe NIU’s speed was a little too killer.

The NIU defense was shaky, but it could have been worse.

The good news for the Huskies is that Shawun Lurry finally got his interception. Trequan Smith also recorded an INT, Bobby Jones IV had 10 tackles (9 solo) on the day and Ladell Fleming recorded two sacks on an otherwise hectic day for the defense.

The bad news was that the Huskies gave up 484 yards and six touchdowns in the process while allowing two 100-yard rushers in the same game for a run offense in CMU that normally isn’t great. CMU was also 8-18 on third down, which also isn’t ideal.

That being said, NIU won the turnover battle with two interceptions and a fumble recovery, so there are definitely silver linings heading into next week’s game.

Placekicking was a mess on both sides.

NIU had a potential game-winning kick in overtime blocked, while CMU’s Brian Eavey went 0-for-2 in field goal attempts from 33 and 35 yards in clutch situations, including the end of the fourth quarter and the second overtime.

Not good for a position that asks merely for perfection.

The fault on Christian Hagan’s blocked field goal isn’t all his; the Huskie field goal unit was unable to prevent the Chippewa blockers from getting a hand on the ball, resulting in the attempt being tipped.

For Brian Eavey, however, there is serious concern. This is the second game he has missed all of his attempts and he is currently kicking at a clip of 33 percent (3-of-9 attempts). Kaden Keon, a true freshman, managed to see the field for kickoffs on Saturday and Cooper Mojsiejenko is also available as a big leg, so it’s feasible a change could be made if Eavey’s numbers don’t improve quickly.