The Huskies start the 2016 season with three straight losses, the first time that’s happened since 2007, and have now lost their last six games dating back to last year.
Against the Aztecs, the Huskies started slow on offense...and defense. Going down 28-0 after just 24 minutes of play. However, they clawed their way back to 21-28 by the middle of the third quarter. But two big TD runs in the fourth quarter by Donnel Pumphrey sealed the deal for SDSU.
So what did we learn?
1. NIU’s defense CAN actually stop teams (for a little while).
I know the box score doesn’t necessarily reflect this but Donnel Pumphrey wasn’t that great agaisnt the Huskies...until, of course, he was. NIU shut him down for the most of the game. Of his 220 yards, 158 (that’s almost 80%) came on just three plays: TD runs of 79, 46, and 33. Take away those three downs and he had 20 carries for just 62 yards (you have to look at the positive, right?)
The Huskie defense also pretty much stonewalled the Aztecs in the third quarter...it’s just keeping that defense around that’s been the problem.
2. NIU CAN move the ball on offense (sometimes).
Even without Drew Hare, NIU showed moments of their old selves...it just took them a while to get going. The Huskies had a pretty balanced attack; throwing for 221 yards and rushing for 155 yards but weren’t able to score until just before halftime.
But in the third quarter they looked pretty solid - converting on a 7-play, 73-yard drive and then a quick two-play 54-yard drive (which ended on Golladay’s 49-yard TD catch). And again in a fourth, they scored on a 16-play drive that spanned 65 yards. But they struggle a lot because...
3. The play calling is still too predictable.
There seem to be only four basic plays that the Huskies offense runs, with slight modifications to them. 1: A wide receiver sweep. 2: A QB draw 3: An inside run with a halfback and 4: a short pass on an in route.
Going back to the third quarter, NIU mixed up the play calling a tad bit...and it worked. They had the deep throw to Golladay for a TD, a nice throw back across the field to a wide open tight end for a touchdown and a few other plays that opened up the field...we even saw Golladay attempt a pass that was almost caught.
We need to see more of this going forward instead of the vanilla offense NIU has had the past few years.
4. Penalties are killing the Huskies.
Against Wyoming the Huskies had 12 penalties for 106 yards, most were defensive holding or PI, and they had four for 50 yards last weekend in Tampa. This week it was personal fouls that doomed NIU. Multiple Aztec drives were kept alive on unsportsmanlike conduct calls or targeting. SDSU was awarded 103 free yards this week on eight penalties...most being the 15-yard variety and almost all occurring on defense.
If the Huskies want to right the ship, it starts with playing more disciplined football.
5. The “Fire Rod Carey” Movement is picking up steam...
As I was sitting in the stands during the fourth quarter I must have heard at least 10-15 people screaming for Carey’s head or yelling directly to him that he was “a goner”.
Most of the Huskie faithful have given up on the fourth year coach as they haven’t seen any improvement...instead they are slipping backwards. The recruiting hasn’t been great and, despite the talent NIU has, they have not performed up to level at which we know they are capable of.
That being said...Carey can still turns things around here for this season. If he can spruce up the play calling and get this offense clicking NIU can salvage this year.
Do I think Carey should be fired? Not at this moment.
But should NIU start scouting for coaches? It might not be a bad idea.