It was the greatest victory for Northern Illinois (2-6). It was the most excruciating defeat for Buffalo (1-6). Northern Illinois looks much better than its record suggests, while Buffalo is far from returning to a bowl-caliber team. Takeaways from the Huskies’ 44-7 victory in DeKalb:
- Buffalo is at the very bottom of college football. Two one-win teams collided, but the Huskies demonstrated superiority for 60 minutes. The Bulls, along with Bowling Green, are still searching for their first MAC win. They’ve lost by at least 20 points in four of six losses, and the only win left on the schedule may be at Bowling Green on November 25. The Bulls’ rushing defense, giving up the second-most yards in the NCAA, was torn up on the ground by Northern Illinois. Buffalo yielded 312 yards and four touchdowns, making Anthony Maddie resemble a clone of Jordan Lynch in the process. Offensively, Buffalo is at the nadir. The Bulls average an FBS-low 14.9 point per game, and did not even score half of that mark in DeKalb on Saturday. Every team in college football has a win now, placing 1-6 Buffalo near the 128th ranking in the nation.
- Anthony Maddie could save Northern Illinois, but it may be too late. Maddie converted to wide receiver at the beginning of 2016, but quickly switched back to the quarterback position after the injury of Drew Hare and winless start by Ryan Graham. Since Maddie has taken the reigns, the Huskies are 2-2. The two losses are to ranked Western Michigan and to a respectable Central Michigan team in triple overtime. Maddie has hit the 100-yard rushing mark in three of these four starts, but shined against Buffalo with four scores of his own. The read option is working gracefully for the Huskies, especially since inserting Maddie in the lineup. For a team that started the season hopeless, winnable games finally exist on the schedule. Unfortunately for Northern Illinois, the 0-4 start with an FCS loss may prevent it from making a ninth-consecutive bowl game.
- Early turnovers kill. It’s a known fact in football, but winning becomes near-impossible when losing the turnover battle as harsh as Buffalo. Buffalo freshman quarterback Tyree Jackson entered the contest with only two interceptions on the season, but threw four in the 37-point loss. Northern Illinois capitalized with 16 points off of turnovers, while only throwing one interception on Ryan Graham’s sole pass at the end. Buffalo’s interceptions occurred all in the first half, which dug it into a 30-7 hole at halftime. One interception was thrown in Huskie territory—a detrimental missed scoring opportunity for Buffalo when points have been a scarcity this season.
- Rod Carey has fixed the issues. It was a 1-6 Buffalo, but a 44-7 win over any time in college football is a quality victory. This was Northern Illinois’ first convincing win of 2016, but it is showing improvement with each game. After a rock-bottom loss to FCS Western Illinois, the Huskies beat Ball State, challenged Western Michigan by keeping it within 15, and nearly defeated Central Michigan in week seven. The defense continues to improve each week, and dominated Buffalo by forcing turnovers and bringing intensity on third downs (Bulls converted 1-of-12) to force frequent punts. Carey, who led the program to the MAC Championship Game in three consecutive years, may not see a bowl game this year. It is unknown if he will be coaching the Huskies in 2017 but one thing is for certain—his team is making major strides with Maddie at the helm and an improved defense.
- Kenny Golladay is special. It was the lone passing touchdown of the day. Up 30-7 on third down, Maddie tossed the pigskin high down the left side of the field. Golladay extended his right hand, caught the tip of the ball, and snagged it in to complete a spectacular one-handed catch. The 22-yard touchdown reception surfaced its way into highlight reels everywhere, emphasizing the phenomenal receiving abilities of Golladay. The senior wide receiver is more than one highlight though. He is 11th in the nation with 821 receiving yards and has found the end zone seven times this season. Golladay finished Saturday with seven catches for 96 yards, and remains the top threat for opposing secondaries in a primarily rushing-centric offense.