Tuesday night marks the final night that the Bobcat seniors will play at Peden Stadium, and wouldn't it just be a hoot if they somehow pulled off a win against the MAC-best Huskies? Northern Illinois comes into Tuesday night's matchup coming off an 8-2 football team that just defeated Toledo 27-24.
A win for Ohio means a 5-1 home record, which would be something to hang a hat on for a team that has hovered around .500 for the better part of the 2014 season. An impressive showing in last week's 37-14 victory over Buffalo has this Ohio team geared up for a weeknight showdown that has been highly anticipated, seeing as how the Huskies and 'Cats have not played one another since 2011 in the MAC championship game (NIU won that game 23-20).
In his weekly press conference, Ohio head coach Frank Solich stressed the importance of this game for his team. "It'd make a statement. We're looking at taking steps forward with our program and that would be one of them, to be able to defeat the top program in the MAC. It will not be easy, they're winning football games for a reason and they've done it with regularity. They're able to attract real quality athletes, they have good facilities, and they've had good coaching... They've got a good package there."
A big part of the success have stemmed from the success of the Huskie running game, which is led by the 235-pound. senior running back Cameron Stingily. Against Toledo, the team ran the ball 46 times for 226 yards, effectively enforcing NIU's will on the Rockets. Overall, Stingily has 706 yards on the ground and has pounded the ball into the end zone 10 times this season. The Huskies sit atop the MAC, running the ball all over conference foes (261.7 yards a game rushing).
Quarterback Drew Hare has settled into the role nicely, and has not been asked to do much for NIU in terms of slinging the pigskin. Hare has, however, made a name for himself running the ball. The sophomore has gathered 687 yards on the ground and five touchdowns to compliment the bruising nature of Stingily's game.
Healthy for Ohio are Derrius Vick and A.J. Ouellette (well, about as healthy as either have been since early in the season) and the two have positive performances from the Buffalo game to work off of. Ohio will need those repeat performances as the team has generally struggle this season in major offensive categories, as the 'Cats are 11th in points per game and eighth in total yards this season (compared to fourth and third for NIU).
An Ohio offensive line that has been beat up for much of 2014 will go up against a Huskie defensive line that features Jason Meehan, who leads the MAC in sacks with seven.
Ohio will be wearing its black uniforms in a blackout game that is sure to chill all in attendance to the bone. We'll see if the Huskies or 'Cats come out ready for the kill.