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Five Things Learned: WMU 31, NIU 35

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NIU escaped with a narrow win...so what did we learn?

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

The Northern Illinois Huskies avoided the upset bid from the Western Michigan Broncos on a cold, windy Wednesday night by a score of 35-31.

It was close all game and came down to a few big runs from NIU’s tailbacks on their final possession as they were able to chew the final five minutes of clock and move to 8-3 (6-1) on the year. The Broncos were eliminated from MAC West title contention with the loss as they fell to 6-5 (4-3).

So what can we take away from this game?

1. Jordan Huff is back to 100%

After a few weeks nursing some injuries and just six carries last week against Ball State, NIU tailback Jordan Huff broke out against the Broncos. He had the bulk of the Huskies yardage - accounting for 59.3% of NIU’s yards against WMU - rushing it 25 times for 185 yards (a career high) and two scores.

Huff was able to break tackles and push forward all game. He finished with game with seven rushes of 10+ yards and had three go for more than 20 yards.

2. It’s open season on NIU’s secondary

Western’s freshman QB, Reese Goddard, came in to the game completing 40% of his passes (16/40) with just 151 yards and zero touchdowns. The blistering winds wouldn’t slow him down against the porous Huskie secondary though as last night he had career highs in yardage (211), completions and attempts (15 of 27), touchdowns (2), and his highest completion percentage as a starter (55.6%). He was able to find receivers deep all game despite the wind gusts that reached upwards of 20+ miles per hour. If he continues to improve like this the Broncos will be very dangerous the next few years.

3. Jarvion Franklin will play on Sundays

The MAC’s leading rusher, Jarvion Franklin, has now rushed for 100+ yards in six straight games and seven of the last eight. Against the best rush defense in the MAC, Franklin was able to put up solid numbers - 115 yards on 27 carries and a score. He now has 1,176 yards this season and 11 touchdowns. And his career stats are insane: 4815 yards, 51 touchdowns, and an average of 5.19 yards per game...plus he still has (at least) one more game to go!

4. Sutton Smith should win the Chuck Bednarik Award...or at the very least be a finalist

Smith - who entered the game in the top-3 in sacks and tackles for loss and led the NCAA in QB hurries - had himself yet another monster game. He finished the night with six tackles, 5.5 TFL (bringing his total up to 27.5 on the year!), 2.5 sacks (upping his total to 13!), and recovered a fumble...which he returned 58 yards for a defensive score. Until the games finish this weekend, Smith once again is the nations leader in QB Hurries, sacks (by two), and TFLs (by four!)...plus his three fumble recoveries are good enough for second in the NCAA.

He is insane. Take notice NCAA!

But, despite the hard fought battle yesterday, now that the game is over...

5. The Huskies are now the Broncos #1 fans

Despite being rivals yesterday, the Huskies now find themselves cheering for WMU next week.

The Broncos, who play the Toledo Rockets next Friday, can send the Huskies to the MAC Championship Game should they beat Toledo and NIU finds a way to top CMU.

WMU should want to get to 7-5 to help their bowl chances and the Huskies would sure love that too. No matter what trash talk might have happened this week, everyone in Kalamazoo AND DeKalb will be cheering for the Broncos come November 24th.